LOOKING TO NEXT SEASON: McWhorter expects Jaguars to learn from 2022's rollercoaster season

·3 min read

Jun. 17—LONDON — The best way to describe North Laurel's baseball season this spring is to compare it to a roller coaster.

The Jaguars finished with a 16-18 mark, lost in the first round of the 49th District, missed the region tournament for the first time since 2009, had win streaks of at least three games on three occasions, two games on three occasions but also lost five games in a row on two different occasions.

North Laurel just couldn't seem to get on track despite recording big wins over Corbin, Whitley County, Knox Central, South Laurel, Middlesboro, and Barbourville.

"We had an up and down season, getting off to a good start but still losing five or six close games by one run," North Laurel coach Darrin McWhorter said. "Some days when we would get good pitching, our bats would let us down, and other games, we would score early, get a lead and pitching or defense would let us down. But when we put it all together, we were a very good team and we had some very good wins on the season."

North Laurel got off to an early 8-4 start that saw the Jaguars move into the No. 1 spot of the 13th Region Rankings. McWhorter credited his team's early success to pitching and hitting.

"Corey Broughton and Austin Smith on the mound was a big key to our success," he said. "They threw really well. We had a team ERA of 3.78 along with the bat of Eli Sizemore, who had a .466 average and 55 hits. He had a great senior year.

"As a team, we hit .331," McWhorter added. "Chase Keen hit .361, Austin Smith 383, Walt Hellard 347, EJ Allen 355, Kyler Elza hit .302, and Noah Cima hit .390. What kept us from having more success was the inconstant play either pitching, hitting or defense. You never knew what team would show up. When we put it all together, we were pretty good and beat some very good wins on the season."

McWhorter admitted getting Chase Keen back for next season will be a huge asset for his Jaguars.

"Having him healthy for the entire season will be big," he said. "Returning on the mound will be Corey Broughton, Blaize Jones, EJ Allen, and J. Douglas Gilliam. Each of them have experience and will help out a great deal.

"Also returning will be position players Chase Keen, Walt Hellard, EJ Allen, Kyler Elza, Noah Cima, Noah Rush, Corey Broughton, Cameron Smith, and Caynan Sizemore — they all have varsity experience," McWhorter added. "The loss of our six seniors will be hard to replace. Eli Sizemore led our team in hitting, Austin Smith was second in hotting and No. 1 on the mound with four wins. Losing Caden Harris last season to an injury and his overall leadership will be hard to replace. Gavin Hurst along with Seth Elkins and Nathan Edwards will be missed, too."

Despite his team's struggles this season, McWhorter believes his team is on the right path to success.

"Our program is in great shape and we will have high expectations next season," he said. "This is the first time since 2009 we haven't made the region tournament, and we will be determined to make a deep run next season."