2010 PREP BASEBALL PREVIEW: Whole new ballgame (UPDATE: Corrects name of the catcher in picture to Caleb Sides)

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

ALBANY -- Life has been kind of hectic for Westover baseball/ wrestling coach Kevin Fretwell lately.

Fretwell has barely had time to shower and shave since returning from this past weekend's state wrestling tournament in Atlanta. Now he has to shift gears as the Patriots open their 2010 baseball season this afternoon in Bainbridge against Northview (Ala.) in the Bearcats Invitational.

"It's been a very busy three weeks," said Fretwell, who is replacing longtime -- and now retired -- coach Steve Bowers as the Pats' baseball coach this season. "I've been juggling wrestling and baseball and I am very lucky to have good assistants that have helped me. Craig Armona ran wrestling practice when I was with the baseball team and Matthew Schuette has been running baseball when I've been with the wrestling team."

Still, wearing multiple hats has been stressful for the rookie baseball coach.

"I've been at most of the baseball practices, but I haven't seen a pitch, swing or ground ball since Tuesday," Fretwell said. "Matthew set the lineup for the Northview game, but now I will get into a baseball groove this week. Been busy, but fun."

After losing six senior starters from last years 17-8 squad to graduation and with region foes Crisp, Peach and Cairo looking like contenders this season, Fretwell admits this is a rebuilding year at Westover.

"Our goal this year is to make it into the playoffs. We've got two solid starters at the top of our pitching rotation," Fretwell said. "(Sophomore) Robert Daniel is one of the best young pitchers in the South and (senior) Michael Schlegel has the nastiest curveball I have ever seen. If we can keep those two guys fresh and healthy, we could sneak in (to the playoffs)."

After Daniel and Schlegel, Fretwell said the rest of the rotation will be "filled by committee."

As with his pitching, Fretwell thinks the top of the Westover offense is sturdy. Senior Jacob Campbell will lead off, followed by Schlegel and senior catcher J.T. Santos. Senior first baseman J.D. Yeatts, meanwhile, will bat cleanup.

"We have some power in our lineup," Fretwell said. "I don't want everyone trying to crush the ball, but if Santos and Yeatts get a hold of one, it's going a long way. We just have to get people on base for them."

While the team will be anchored by seniors and juniors, Fretwell is also looking for big things from a couple of ninth graders.

"We've got two solid looking freshmen in David Kemp and Josh Black, and we think they might contribute right away," the coach said. "Kemp will start at third for us and Black will be in right when Daniel pitches."

This afternoon's starting lineup shapes up like this: Campbell will lead off and play center, Schlegel is at short and will bat second, Santos is behind the plate and will bat third, Yeatts bats clean up and is at first, Nick Lane is in left and will bat fifth, Daniel draws the start and will bat sixth, Black is in right and bats seventh, Kemp is at third and bats eighth, while Wes Buchanan will play second and bat ninth.

After today's opener, the Pats travel to Lee County on Thursday then take on Marianna and Liberty County, Fla., on Friday in Bainbridge. Westover will open its home season on March 2 when Lee County pays a visit.

"We hope that lineup work for us," Fretwell said. "Our early season schedule is a beast. We're going to get tossed into the fire and play tough teams to get ready for our region schedule We'll make adjustments as we go along."