Piedmont’s 2015 baseball season nearly turned out exactly how its senior class and its head coach had hoped it would when the season started – with a state tournament appearance.
But the Wildcats’ offense went flat in the regional playoffs at Chickasha, dooming that dream. PHS scored seven runs in three games, including a 3-2 loss to Chickasha in a game, that had Piedmont won, would’ve given the Wildcats control of the regional.
2015 was the first time in Williams’ five-year tenure at Piedmont that the Wildcats didn’t win at least 20 games and advance to a regional final.
“Our goal is to be in the state tournament every year,” Williams said. “I feel like if we don’t get there that we haven’t done our job.”
The offensive struggles during the postseason were emblematic of the entire season. Piedmont pitched well and got runners on base, but couldn’t get them home often enough when it mattered most during a 19-16 campaign.
Williams hopes experience will help what was a relatively young lineup last season, come through with run-scoring hits next season.
“I feel pretty comfortable with the guys we’re bringing back,” he said. “I think we will be better next year. When you’re young you get anxious at the plate and sometimes want to prove things to older players, with a year under their belt I think they’ll have more patience in those types of situations.”
Piedmont’s starting pitching performed well all season, especially in district play. District aces J.J. Rogers, a Seminole State signee, (5-5, 2.52 ERA with two saves) and Trevin Michael (4-3, 2.42 ERA) were solid, and junior relievers Tyler Anderson (1.88 ERA in 26 2/3 innings) and Brayden Nelson (3-1, 2.47 ERA) gave Williams reliable options out of the bullpen.
“We bring three guys back (Michael, Anderson and Nelson) that pitched a lot for us. We do need to develop some depth next season behind them,” Williams said. “We have some freshman that will be sophomores next year that can hopefully step up to give us that depth.”
Piedmont will return four of its top hitters from last season, including its leading hitter, left fielder Hunter Chism. Catcher Bryce McDermott, who’s already caught the eye of college recruiters, is also back after rebounding from a slow start to the 2015 season to hit .333 with 20 RBIs. Cleanup hitter Noah Ellis, a junior-to-be, returns after leading the Wildcats with 28 RBIs last season.
“Hunter was consistent most of the year. You feel good about bringing five guys back who had 100 at-bats for you,” Williams said, noting he hopes his team’s execution of its small-ball will be better next season. “We need to a better job with our bunting and putting pressure on people like we like to do.”
With most of the lineup intact, Williams must find a starting pitcher to fill in for Rogers’ spot in the district rotation next season, while maintaining a steady bullpen that played a crucial role for PHS this season, if the ‘Cats hope to make a deep postseason run.
“Right now it’ll be Brayden Nelson,” Williams said his second district starter. “I told Ty Anderson in our exit interviews that he will be in relief on either day of districts. That’s what we’re looking at right now.”