Mar. 26—LONDON — It's much easier to deal with a canceled season when you have a team filled with guys like Trey Smith has at South Laurel.
With a strong, mature senior group coming back in 2021, the Cardinals maximized their offseason efforts, while combating restrictions due to COVID-19, like most of the other teams around the state, and country, for that matter.
Smith said that while there were limitations at times, there was no drop-off in effort. His team showed up, worked hard, and put the time in, and he thinks that will be the difference when they lace up their cleats in just a couple of weeks.
"The shutdown definitely affected how we could prepare in the offseason for the upcoming year. There were several limitations to how you could do workouts this offseason, but I had a great group of guys that worked hard even though we had to deal with shutdowns and different distractions," said Smith. "I actually think it has helped our players learn how to overcome obstacles that are out of our control and keep working no matter what the circumstances."
This year's senior class will be the first group that Smith has seen all the way through since he took the job four years ago. Returning to lead this year's squad will be the likes of Reed Marcum, Harrison Byrd, Wes Wright, Lucas Mullins, Kennedy Sizemore, and Dylan Dixon.
All six of the seniors have varsity experience. Smith said the group has held together through thick and thin, creating a bond between them, and with their coach, that will help the Cardinals find success in 2021.
"They have all played varsity innings even as freshmen and sophomores in our lineup. They have stuck together through the good and the bad and they enjoy playing together," said Smith. "Through all their experience they will be great for me this year as we will undoubtedly deal with some new experiences this season. They have all put themselves in a situation to help this team be successful."
Combined with their senior experience, Smith will have a plethora of young, inexperienced players to choose from when it comes time to put nine players on the field. They will rely heavily on their senior leadership this season, and Smith believes there is enough underclassmen talent to put together a good season.
"Each of these players brings something a little different that can help our team win," Smith said. " I have some young players that will step into roles this year and I am pumped for them to get their first taste of varsity action."
The Cardinals will throw the first pitch at home against Leslie County on March 29. They have a schedule that lines up some of the best teams in the 13th Region and beyond, and it will be a challenge with nearly 40 games on the books.
Smith said that this year's squad has been bought-in from the beginning and he is excited to see what they can produce.
"I think every coach would agree that this year is different because of the loss of last season. A lot of the questions you have about your team are answered when you play games and go through the grind of a season and we lost that last year," said Smith. "However, I do love the team that I have returning and they are all bought into our message here at South Laurel. They know that individual success happens through team success. Like any Coach going into a season, I am excited to see our guys compete against other teams and see what we can accomplish together."