High school athletics can be a fickle thing. One season you're at the front of the pack and the next you're facing a rebuilding year. It's a fact that North Summit's head baseball coach, Brent Scholes, is all too familiar with.
"It's going to be a tough season," Scholes said, "but it's also going to be an exciting season."
Scholes has his work cut out for him. The Braves will need to get the most out of a young and inexperienced ball club. Scholes' starting roster will feature only four players with varsity experience and he's going to have to build North Summit's outfield from the ground up. The situation is a far cry from where the team sat a year ago.
"I had five seniors (last year) and expected good things," he said. "(But) we got beat out by Layton Christian in the play-game. A lot of the boys went in with too much confidence and the game got sideways quick."
Although Scholes is still smarting from last year's upset and the loss of his seniors, he realizes the potential in his young team. He sees an opportunity to mold a roster loaded with freshman and sophomores into a group that will be competitive in the coming years.
"We've had a good turnout," he said. "We're young, but that can be good and bad. The good thing about that is (the players) listen, they will learn and they will work hard. The bad thing is the lack of experience, the weaker arms, and not having the knowledge of the game or a (feel) for the speed of the high school game."
North Summit's depth at pitcher is of particular concern to Scholes. Although he is loaded on the front end with junior Carson Richins and freshman Kendall West, the team is still in need of a closer.
"The arm strength is what we're going to have to develop (in the younger players)," he said. "There are some young boys we are looking at that are going to need a little bit of work and guidance."
A lack of pitchers has already plagued the team this season. After an 11-4 win against Layton Christian at the North Sevier Tournament, North Summit ran out of steam in the last game of the tournament against North Sevier. the end of the day, the team was forced to hold what Scholes called an "open tryout" in search of a pitcher to close the final inning.
"We were tired and out of pitchers," Scholes said. "We were throwing anybody (in) to see if we might be able to find another pitcher along the way. That is a big concern right now. We need to find another pitcher, whether they can come in and throw one inning a game or not."
The numbers aren't in North Summit's favor either. Now that the region has been realigned, North Summit will play three games almost every week compared to two last year. Scholes recognizes the need to carefully manage his pitch count and number of innings to keep arms fresh. He'll be stretching his pitching talent thin throughout the long season -- a season that will feel even longer if the losses start to pile up.
"It's hard," he said. "No one likes to lose. Everyone wants to be a part of a team when you have a winning tradition, but when you're struggling and trying to rebuild, it's hard to keep the confidence up in the boys. They need to know that you need and want them (on the team) and that things will get better. My job is to let them know that, with work, good things will come."
If Scholes can get his young team to buy into his system, he believes North Summit has the talent to surprise opponents -- down the stretch this season and in the coming years as well.
"There's a lot of kids that I have confidence in, but they don't have as much confidence in themselves," he said. "We're working with them and trying to get them to believe in themselves. There are some kids that I think can be very good players, but they just need to believe in themselves."
In 2014, the Braves won't have a target on their backs, but if they're patient and Scholes can manage his talent, there's no reason to believe they won't surprise a few teams. In some ways, Scholes believes the team can benefit from flying under the radar -- perhaps reversing its fate from a season ago.
"We have an opportunity to go in and be an underdog, which I like," he said. "Hopefully, we can upset a team or two somewhere along the way. You just never know when they're that young, but after this past weekend I'm pretty pleased with what we have and what we've seen so far."