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Cavs face new season with slim roster

Bruce Hagwood knows he’s got plenty of challenges ahead of him as his Lakeland team gets ready for its upcoming baseball campaign.

The easiest issue to notice can be seen as the Cavaliers loosened up before their first scrimmage of the season on Tuesday afternoon. There are only 10 Cavaliers in uniform.

“Our numbers are low all the way around,” the Cavalier head coach said about the JV and varsity programs.

Last season, the Cavaliers had a season with highs and lows, but it ended with a low. The Cavaliers were 8-8 and had a shot at making the Southeastern District Tournament, or a top-four spot in the district, before dropping four straight games to end the season. The highs of the season included sweeping city rivals Nansemond River and King’s Fork.

Only four returning starters are back this spring. David Waterfield will head up Lakeland’s pitching staff. Jeremy Hagwood, who’s now pitching for Virginia Wesleyan, was Lakeland’s top pitcher a year ago, but Waterfield improved and became just as reliable as the season went along.

Nate Meeks, who mostly saw playing time in centerfield last season, will be depended on more as a pitcher. Trey Wright, normally a reserve last spring, will see some time on the mound, as will newcomer Randall Jones, a sophomore, said Hagwood.

Lance Smith and Brandon Snook are the other returning starters. Smith had one of the top batting averages in the district last season and will be key to Lakeland’s infield defense. Smith, Snook and Waterfield made up the top of the Cavalier batting order during Tuesday’s scrimmage.

“We’re young, there’s no doubt about that. We’re looking at starting a couple freshmen and a couple sophomores,” Hagwood said.

As is usually the case this time of year, full, outdoor practices have been tough to come by in late February and early March. “We’ve only been on the field a couple days,” Hagwood said.

“And now (Tuesday) we’re scrimmaging against the reigning state champions today, so we’ll see this goes,” Hagwood said before Lakeland hosted Menchville.

Even with new faces and a short roster, there are good reasons to look forward to the new season. Lakeland opens up on March 16 at district opponent Deep Creek.

For one, the team, new guys included, has been practicing together throughout the summer and fall said Hagwood.

“I don’t know if it’s a rebuilding year. I think it’s more like a building year,” Hagwood said.

“But we have a solid group of guys here and we have the ability to play good, sound, competitive baseball,” Hagwood said.