By Tim Chambers
Johnson County is hoping to level out the ride in 2017 after a roller coaster campaign last year that got rather bumpy at the end. The Longhorns pulled off a couple of big wins but also stubbed their toe a bit too.
Dropping two first round District games didn’t bode well for the Horns who could make a deeper run in 2017. Head coach Pete Pavusek returns for his 22nd season and he’s hoping that this might be the magical one, improving on last year’s 16-15 overall mark.
The Longhorns return one of the league’s top players in addition to a core of players that batted .300 or above last year.
Nick Whitener will lead the way. The crafty senior hit over .400 and picked up six wins on the mound to lead the Horns in that department. The Horns have a chance of beating anyone when Whitener toes the rubber. He also bats left-handed and can play multiple positions which definitely has caught the eye of some college coaches.
Shane Greer will move over to centerfield after playing left last year. He hit .412 and was one of the team’s top batters in 2016.
The middle infield appears to be intact with Daniel Livorsi (3B), Bud Icenhour (2B) and shortstop Jayden Joiner returning.
“We feel pretty good about the kids we have back,” said Pavusek. “But we’ve got other kids that we feel good about too. I like our speed and the strength that several of our kids have. We’ve got a lot of arms that can throw and we’ve not had that luxury in the past. We’re excited about that because Coach Jerry Whitener has worked hard in the offseason with these kids and it’s showing. I can see a big difference so far in our preseason games.”
Pavusek praised the work of Josh Tierney and McClain Carleton for the way they’ve performed so far.
“Those two guys have stepped up and filled some vacancies where we needed someone,” said Pavusek. “Alex Calderon has played well and so has Gabe Reece. Gabe got a big hit that won us a game last night. I can see all those guys earning time. We’ve got a lot of competition at different positions. We got a lot of kids vying for playing time and a lot who deserve playing time.”
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