Calera baseball in midst of turnaround season
Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
CALERA – Seth Gandy came to Calera to be the head baseball coach in 2013. The former Jacksonville State pitcher had been the JV coach at Thompson before taking over the helm for the Eagles, and he walked into a tough situation. A school not known for its baseball prowess, Calera went 3-22 on the diamond in that first season, en route to a cumulative 26-64 record spanning from 2013-15, according to Gamechanger.com. This year, in Gandy’s fourth with the Eagles, Calera is 8-1 as of March 2, and has outscored opponents by an average of roughly 10 runs per game to two in those eight wins. Through nine games in 2016, Calera is already within four wins of the highest win total the program has seen in some time.
A part of the uptick in production, according to Gandy, is due to the natural maturation of his younger players.
“I expected us to be much better this year,” Gandy said in a March 2 interview. “Last year we started six freshman, one sophomore and three juniors. Our kids are a year older now, and a year more experienced.”
Along with the development of his younger players has come the prospect of a second ace on the mound. Matthew Marfice, a senior commit to the University of Montevallo, has been a mainstay on the mound for the Eagles for most of his high school career and remains a top arm for Calera. However, sophomore Jacob Smith has come on strong on the mound to help take Calera to new heights. Smith has pitched in three of the first nine games for Calera, throwing a total of 15 innings while giving up no runs on just one hit while striking out a ridiculous 41 batters.
“We’re blessed to have two number one guys,” Gandy said. “We have two guys who are going to be able to throw a lot of strikes and love to compete.”
From the plate, Calera has a number of solid hitters capable of having big days. Marfice is a consistent bat, as are Kevin Dowdell and Devin Buckhannon, who bookend Marfice in the batting order at the three and five slots to Marfice’s four. Scoring runs has not been a problem for this Calera team thus far this year, as the fewest runs the Eagles have put up through nine games is six.
As far as what might lie ahead this season, Calera is in uncharted waters. Capable pitching and solid hitting might have the Eagles prepped for a postseason run, but Gandy is making sure his kids don’t get too far ahead of themselves.
“We want to take it one game at a time, that’s our deal,” Gandy said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, if we don’t make it to the playoffs it’ll be a disappointment. But we want to just take it one day at a time and not get ahead of ourselves.”