In Marietta's home opener against Morgan Tuesday at Legion Field, the Tigers were led by youthful group of players.
That figures to be a theme throughout the 2014 season as Marietta has a surplus of young but talented players on its roster that will likely be key contributors on the team.
By the end of Tuesday's 9-5 win over Morgan, the Tigers had five freshmen, three sophomores and one senior in their lineup. Granted Marietta had a few players out due to a school related event and an injury Tuesday, but even when those players return the Tigers will still heavily rely on some inexperienced players for production.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Marietta reliever Trent Dawson delivers a pitch homeward against Mordan during prep baseball action at Legion Field Tuesday.
"This is our team, you know," said Marietta head coach Jim Thrash.
"Besides the fact that we normally have a young team, we were even younger (Tuesday)."
The Tigers plugged in three freshmen in the top four spots in the batting order, with Isaac Danford leading off, Turner Hill batting second and Brandon Neville hitting cleanup. Other freshmen included second baseman Trent Dawson and outfielder Zach Deskins, the latter coming in off the bench midway through the game.
Those five players combined for five of Marietta's seven base hits in the game and drove in four of the team's nine runs.
Danford and Hill also came up with some slick plays defensively at shortstop and center field, respectively.
On the mound, Marietta relied on a pair of players making their varsity pitching debuts. Dawson pitched 3.1 innings of relief, striking out five and issuing no free passes, to earn his first pitching victory.
Left hander Jacob Erb, a sophomore, was brought up from JV to make the start on the bump. Erb lasted 3.2 innings and was solid before getting into a bases loaded jam in the top of the fourth. Dawson was called upon to get out of it and did by inducing a Jordan Work flyout. Dawson later struck out the side in the sixth inning.
"The two of them, I'm very pleased with," Thrash said. "Jacob was very strong going into that third inning. A couple things happened and he sort of lost his composure and started piling up too many pitches.
"That's why he came out. Trent, we have a lot of confidence in him. He's got a nice arm."
With young athletes all over the diamond, the Tigers' returning players will likely be counted on as leaders.
Adam McKnight is the team's lone returning senior. Anthony Kimbrough is also a senior but is in his first season playing varsity baseball.
McKnight contributed in Marietta's rotation last season and also batted in the middle part of the order. Those roles will increase this season as he will be counted on as the ace of the pitching staff and also to hit in the No. 3 hole.
McKnight brings by far the most experience to the club and should be able to show some of the younger players the ropes.
Juniors Michael Ullman and Austin Hefter are the Tigers' only other returning lettermen. Other juniors Josh Moretto, Corey Hill, Matthew Fitzgerald, Max Fitzgerald and Zach Robinson are all first-year varsity players.
This will be a big season for Marietta baseball even if it doesn't show it in the win column.
It's important for this nucleus of underclassmen to gain experience and develop properly so the Tigers can set themselves up for longterm success.