Sometimes a baseball team is like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces scattered all over the table. You know all the pieces are there, but the question is this -- do you have what it takes to put them all together to make a complete picture?
Deerfield-Windsor coach Rod Murray will start putting his team's pieces together this afternoon when the Knights open their season at home against Terrell Academy.
DWS is coming off a 20-6 season in which the Knights lost in the GISA AAA semifinals to eventual state champion Tattnall Square. Murray thinks he has all the pieces to make a deeper journey into this year's playoffs.
Deerfield won state titles in 1984, 1997-98 and 2003. The Knights also were state runners-up in 2008.
"We've got all the parts, figuring out where they all go is the fun part," said Murray, who is starting his second year at the DWS helm said. "We've got a rich tradition of baseball here. We set goals at Deerfield to play in the last game of the year. But there are several other good teams out there having the same conversation we are right now."
The first piece Murray will throw on the table this afternoon will be opening-day starter Christopher Moates, a junior right-handed transfer from Lee County.
"He has good command of his pitches, is confident on the mound and throws a lot of strikes," Murray said. "He has a lot of savvy out there."
As with all good puzzles, Murray hasn't settled on his pitching rotation.
Murray has four other pitchers, who are juniors Rhett Cooper, Michael Laslie and Banks Kinslow, and sophomore Lindsey Short.
"We've got some pitching depth, all those guys have given us good innings in the past," Murray said. "They have the arms to throw strikes and make people put the ball in play."
As far as the infield goals, the Knights are rich with talent with All-State second baseman Michael Matthews returning to lead off the batting order. Kinslow is back at shortstop and Moates will share first with senior Reese Kinney. Matt Moree, a junior, is at third, and two sophomores Gill Gillespie and Hunter Brettell will rotate with Cooper at catcher.
In the outfield, junior Davis Moore is penciled in at left field, Laslie will play center and Cooper Shoemaker and Cooper with move around in right. Sophomore Quintin Heard will also see time in the outfield and freshman Harris Webb will rotate between the infield and outfield.
Offensively, the Knights must replace current Mercer player Evan Boyd's .500 batting average in the No. 3 hole.
"Michael is back at leadoff. He takes a lot of pitches and doesn't strike out," Murray said. "After that, we're not sure, that's why we are out here on a Sunday. We want to take a longer look at our hitters. I probably won't settle on a lineup until I talk things over with (assistant coach Melvin Kinslow) (this morning)."
Still, Murray has a fair idea of how his lineup will shape up.
"Kinslow, Cooper and Moates will be at the top of the lineup," Murray said. "As far as power goes, those guys can all hit the ball outta here. It's just a matter of getting them into the right spots."
Murray knows he might not have the pieces in the right place this afternoon, but he thinks all the parts are there.
"It's not very often you get it right on opening day," the coach said. "But we have the makings of a pretty good team. We'll make adjustments as we go along."
And Murray hopes the finished puzzle will result in yet another deep playoff run.