It’ll be another fresh start for the Madison-Plains High School baseball team this spring as plenty of new faces in new places will try and build something meaningful on the diamond with the use of players from other sports.
The newness begins with a new coach in Zach Durban. Durban, a 2001 graduate of Madison-Plains High School, who played both football and baseball at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. before enlisting in the U.S. Army after the events on Sept. 11. He served seven years of active duty and three years in overseas deployment, which included one combat tour in Iraq.
Durban hopes that he can help teach the game to a team that has zero seniors on the roster, all in hopes of success coming as the level of experience grows.
“This will be a year of growth in many ways,” Durban said. “We have an entirely new coaching staff, several new faces to our varsity roster, and a couple of players who have not played baseball in many years.
“Our learning curve will be a steep one. We have a challenging non-league schedule and our division (Mid-State League) is packed with teams who played into the districts last season. We do not have a senior in our program this year, but where we may lack in experience, we will certainly make up in athleticism.”
The Golden Eagles will rely on a number of athletes off of the school’s basketball team to help them stay competitive as a host of younger players learn the game at the varsity level.
“We expect our team to be as athletic as anyone we play. With six varsity basketball players potentially in our lineup at any time, we will not lack speed on the bases or hustle in the field,” he said. “We expect to continue to improve our overall record. The last two teams at Madison-Plains have improved upon their previous year’s record. We look to continue that trend. Our team recognizes that you cannot change everything over night, but with hard work and buy-in to our team, we can possibly turn some heads in the MSL and Central District this season.”
The coach will turn to a core group of players who do return from last year, including junior catcher/pitcher Matt Jeffers, junior IF/P Hunter Butin, sophomore OF/P Jake Vallery, sophomore OF/P Nate Jeffers, sophomore IF/P Jordan Naeder and sophomore IF Zach Bayless.
“Matt Jeffers will be the anchor for us at catcher as long as he remains healthy,” Durban said. “He is coming off of a shortened season last year after a knee injury, but has a lot of talent both as a catcher and batter.
“Hunter Butin is a very talented shortstop and will be called upon as a starting pitcher this season. Nate Jeffers and Jordan Naeder are both skilled infielders, hitters, and will be regulars on the mound. Zach Bayless is a young, but talented first baseman, who is one of the hardest working high school athletes I have seen. Jake Vallery will be a leader in the outfield. His varsity experience from football and basketball should make him a natural leader in our outfield.”
“Right now, I see our team having a strong defensive center,” Durban said. “A good baseball team is built defensively from the middle of the field. Starting with the catcher, second baseman, shortstop, and ending with the center fielder.
“We have the right players in those positions that will hopefully make us a very strong defensive team. Our coaches and players are still going through an adjustment period. Teaching and learning terminology, strategy, and technique is key to a team’s success. Our juniors have had three head coaches in three years now. It is difficult to develop continuity on and off the field when you go through so many changes. Right now, we are working hard at developing the chemistry needed to be a successful team not just for one season, but for the future.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.