Pickens High School Baseball Coach Stan Butler has long prided his approach to coaching on the defensive side of the diamond and the 2009 version of the Blue Flame will be no different in strategy.
“We’re going to have to be very good defensively and have a very good pitching staff. We want to be solid defensively and have our pitchers roll a lot of ground balls to get people out,” stated Butler.
The Blue Flame returns a strong core nucleus among returning pitchers with Jacob Batson, Jacob Fowler, and Rae Brezeale. Seniors Doug Atkins, Will Burgess, Kendall Ray, and Blake Ellenburg also figure to be defensive stalwarts and essential components to success for the Blue Flame in 2009 along with junior standout Logan Thomas.
In addition to the strength on the defensive side, Butler views this year’s edition of the Blue Flame baseball program as a team that will strive to put pressure on the opposition through aggressive base running and practicing sound, fundamental hitting.
“We’re going to have to play a lot of small ball. We’ll bunt, we’ll hit and run. We’re going to try to put some pressure on teams and move some people around. We’re not going to be overwhelming with team speed. We’ve got some kids who can run but not top to bottom as much of a running team as we’ve had in the past. We’re going to have to do some more things with the bunt, hitting and running, hitting behind guys, doing whatever it takes to get guys over, get them around, and get them in.”
Butler believes the players returning give the Blue Flame the opportunity to be strong in region play along with the benefit of Western AAA region realignment.
“We think with the group of younger kids we have coming back we’ve got an opportunity to be pretty good. Obviously with the conference going from eight teams to six teams it’s going to benefit everybody. The conference season is going to be a little bit shorter and it’s going to help everybody’s pitching staff,” Butler said.
Butler feels that the 2009 Western AAA season figures to be interesting with Belton-Honea Path coming into the season rated 5th among AAA baseball programs in South Carolina, the addition of West-Oak to the conference, and both Daniel and Seneca continuing to serve as quality opposition within the region.
“I think we’re going to have some talented teams that are going to surprise some people come playoff time and we hope we’re one of those teams fortunate enough to be playing during playoff time,” Butler pointed out.
The goal for the team remains the same as it has been throughout Butler’s tenure at the helm of the Blue Flame.
“We’re hoping the new kids coming in can mature pretty quickly and give us a chance to compete for a region championship. Our goal pretty much every year is to be able to compete for the region championship,” said Butler.
Butler aims to provide the Pickens community with an exciting brand of baseball on both the offensive and defensive sides with this year’s Pickens Blue Flame with that ultimate goal of the Western AAA title in sight.
Butler explained, “We want to put a product on the field that the community will enjoy coming out to watch. That’s always a big key for us.”