DALEVILLE — The Daleville baseball team has been on a steady upward climb, and the state’s coaches are beginning to take notice.
Coming off a solid 17-9 season on the heels of a 2012 sectional championship, the Broncos received honorable mention in the preseason Class 1A poll.
It’s further validation of the job Daniel Hanson has done to help revive the program.
“Just the recognition that we are working hard, that our kids are putting in the time and that we are developing a pretty good baseball program,” Hanson said. “The preseason polls don’t mean a lot. But it’s nice to get that recognition, and then we’ll see where we are at the end of the year.”
Chances are strong the Broncos will be in a good place.
Five regulars return to the lineup, led by senior Brent Blackwell — who hit .405 with five homers and 28 RBIs a year ago. Also back are sophomore Brandon Vermillion (.431, 0, 19), junior Wesley Biven (.375, 2, 19), junior Bryce Stephens (.296, 0, 22) and senior Levi Floyd (.288, 5, 21).
“Collectively, we have a strong balance between younger guys and older guys,” Hanson said.
But not everyone is back.
Daleville lost a trio of big bats — Taylor Clark, Cody Duke and Kory Roberts — to graduation. And Clark also led the pitching staff as its ace.
Stephens, who went 4-2 with a 3.96 ERA last year, is the top returnee. He’ll be joined by Blackwell and Vermillion who combined for five wins and 16 appearances in 2013.
Experience throughout the roster is one of the Broncos’ greatest assets.
“Many of our players have got memories of the sectional championship, and they also know how last year ended (with a sectional loss),” Hanson said. “I really like the way they’ve come into the season.”
All that experience brings with it great expectations.
For all of its accomplishments, last season ended with disappointment. Having gotten a taste of a postseason championship celebration, Daleville is hungry for more.
“Our kids are really enjoying those expectations,” Hanson said. “We want those expectations. It feels great to perform well, get a lot of wins and play your best at the end of the season and make a tournament run.”
About the series This is the second of 11 high school baseball previews. You can find Shenandoah on our website. Next: Anderson Preparatory Academy.