Long before the season came to an end for the Grayson County High School baseball team with a 12-2 loss to Edmonson County in the 12th District Tournament semifinals May 16, first-year head coach Jody Nutt knew where the team needed to improve the most moving forward — pitching.
“One-hundred% it’s pitching,” he said. “That’s something that we have to collectively get better at.”
Over a 7-17 season that marked the Cougars’ sixth straight losing campaign, 11 times opponents scored 10 runs or more, including three times over the final five games.
The inability to get outs, Nutt said, puts added pressure on the Cougars’ defense and offense.
“The elephant in the room is our pitching,” Nutt said, the Cougars’ third head coach over the last five seasons. “We have to get better at it and we just have to get ahead in the count a lot more; when we get ahead in the count we’re in more control and when a hitting team has a better count they’re in control. We want to be in control.”
Nutt said for his youthful pitching staff with five of the top seven sophomores or younger, focusing on throwing strikes early in counts will be a top priority for next season, and it starts, he says, with a mindset of controlling the game on the mound.
“We just have to hone in on it a little more to throw more strikes early,” said Nutt, a former Cougar assistant coach. “We walk too many batters.”
He said the earned average jumped from around 4.0 in 2021 to about 6.40 last season.
Nutt expects senior Camden Brothers, junior Landon Shiarella, sophomores Jeren Van Meter, Levi Rogers and Landon Haycraft, freshman Gage Napier and eighth-grader Jack Logsdon to lead the staff, although he expects others to contend for innings.
“I believe we have an opportunity to keep getting better,” Nutt said. An added year of experience, maturity and physical development should also help in many areas.
The Cougars have struggled as a program since a four-year run from 2012-2015 when Grayson County won 96 games and four straight district tournament titles. The 2014 squad lost in the 3rd Region Tournament final.
Next season the Cougars will return seven of nine starters with catcher Chandler McCrady and right fielder Ethan Snyder the lone departures.
Nutt said sophomore Landen Mattingly is in line to become the starting catcher after seeing action in several games last season, although Nutt said the job is “free for the taking” for any player to step up and win the position.
Van Meter, Brothers and Shiarella also are among the top returning hitters for next season.
“Honestly, I think we’re going to be better as far as a contact team and in being aggressive on the bases,” Nutt said. “We weren’t passive on the bases, but I think we can be even more aggressive.”
Nutt said there was plenty to learn in his first season in leading the program, beginning with patience.
“Obviously you want to have success and right away,” he said. “It taught me to be patient. It was a tough season and winning fixes a lot of stuff, but we’re going to get there.”
Nutt said he expects “a handful’’ of the returning Cougar players to play travel baseball over the summer.
“As a team, I think we’ll be in a really good place,” Nutt said. “We’re going to continue to get better.”