Both the Corbin Redhounds baseball team and the Corbin Lady Hounds softball team are coming into the 2018 season as defending champions in the 50th District, where the competition is almost always fierce.
Despite that fact, however, both Corbin teams will enter the spring season ready to defend their district crowns. Both will feature a large cast of returning starters, as well as some talented younger players that are eager to show they have what it takes to make an impact at the varsity level.
As for the baseball Hounds, they will be led by a large senior class that includes Blake Botner, Matthew Hart, Braden Dickerson, Josh Hash, Michael Scott, Jaidyn Swanner and Jayson Stancil. All of these athletes played a large role in Corbin’s success on the diamond in 2017, and they will look to do the same in the months ahead.
The Hounds graduated a key player from last year’s squad in pitcher Cole Brock, but head coach Cody Philpot says he is confident that his returning players will be able to step up and fill any voids left by Brock’s departure.
“I’m excited,” Philpot said about the upcoming season. “We’re a long way from the postseason right now, but I like my chances as much as anyone else. We did lose one key player, but we have a lot of guys returning that have a lot of experience. I also think we’re going to have some younger guys that are going to be able to step up and fill in some different roles.”
Also returning to the team will be junior Noah Taylor, who missed all of last season after sustaining an injury while playing football. “I hate to see a kid go through something like Noah did,” Philpot said. “He handled it well, though, and seeing him have a successful football season this past fall was great. He should be a big part of our offensive production.”
Philpot said the 2018 Hounds should feature a lot of depth, including on the pitching mound. He mentioned names such as seniors Dickerson, Stancil and Swanner as players that spent a fair amount of time pitching last year, as well as junior University of Kentucky commit Chase Estep.
Speaking of Estep, he recently said of the new season, “My level of excitement is through the roof, not only for myself, but for the entire team. Last year left a bad taste with everyone after we had such a good year, but didn’t play up to our potential in the region tournament.”
Estep went on to say that Corbin’s strength in 2018 should be the amount of prior game experience the team will collectively bring with them to the field, mentioning again the large group of senior players currently featured on the roster.
The baseball Hounds are scheduled to open up the season on March 19 with a home game against Harlan County. They will begin regular season district play on April 16 versus Whitley County.
The Lady Hounds are also optimistic about their chances this spring, even though they graduated an extremely talented trio of players from last year’s squad in catcher Sarah Beth Price, pitcher Sienna Lawson and first baseman Molli Daniel.
“We lost some big bats,” said head coach Dana White. “But I have seen a lot of improvement from our returning players. Every single person is stepping up to fill those shoes at the plate.”
White said she likes the amount of options she currently has on defense, saying she still isn’t sure who her starting nine will be. She went on to say that it is very possible the Lady Hounds could feature a rotating starting lineup considering the amount of options she has at several different positions on the field.
As for pitching, that will mostly fall on the shoulders of University of the Cumberlands commit Halia Stidham, who is hoping to cap off what has already been a stellar softball career at CHS with another winning season, and a chance at least one more championship title.
Speaking at her signing with UC recently, Stidham said, “I’m really looking forward to everything. We’ll be playing a lot tougher teams this year. I think that is really going to help us, and hopefully push us to play well in the region.”
“We have some strong bats coming back,” Stidham continued. “And there are some younger girls who will be able to step up into new roles. I’m just really looking forward to seeing how everything will play out, and seeing how us seniors will be able to finish things out.”
Fellow senior, and Lindsey Wilson College commit, Madison Hicks added to those comments, saying, “It’s untelling what things our program could accomplish this spring. We have athletes in all positions that are ready to take the field and make some big time plays. We have worked nonstop during the offseason to prepare for the tough schedule we have ahead of us, and I’m excited to see where it will take us.”
Stidham and Hicks, along with Katlin Williams, Madison McDaniel and Meredith Russell, will be the senior leaders for this Lady Hounds group that could accomplish so much during the upcoming spring season. Coach White believes that they, along with a talented junior class that will likely include a returning Harleigh Grubb, will be able to help her guide the team to another successful campaign in 2018.
“This group has really been able to motivate each other,” White explained. “I let the older girls coach the younger girls. I really believe that teaching is the best way to learn yourself, so that helps with so many upperclassmen.”
Corbin softball will kick off their season on the road at Model on March 19. Their first district game will be at Williamsburg on March 27.