Lexington is coming off another successful season, but one that was tempered a bit by a surprisingly quick exit in the district phase of the Class 4A state playoffs. The Wildcats finished 17-9 and won the Region 4-4A championship – the sixth region pennant this decade for the perennial Midlands power - but few expected Lexington to go so meekly in the playoffs, 0-2.
Wildcats coach Tommy Mishoe welcomes back 13 lettermen, but there are many questions that need answers as the regular season is about to begin.
“Though we do have 13 lettermen returning, many of them are playing in new positions,” said Mishoe. “It is almost as though we’re starting fresh with only one player returning to the same starting position as last year. We made all the moves during the off-season to best fill holes left open by graduation. The guys have been working hard to prepare for this year and are looking forward to the new and competitive Region 5-4A.”
Many of the lettermen returning were late-season call-ups or reserves a year ago. The fact is just four full-time starters are back in the fold – Derrick Smith, Chris Harper, Robert Hendrix and Alex Brooks.
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Brooks starts at shortstop and takes over as the No. 1 pitcher. He batted .295 with 16 runs, 15 RBIs and seven steals last season, and was 4-2 with one save and a 2.63 ERA in 32 innings of work on the hill behind departed staff ace Gus White. Hendrix went 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA is 40 innings and hit .273. Smith, set to play in center field, hit .326 last season and led the team in runs scores (22), hits (29), steals (15) and tied for team honors with three home runs. He’ll also be the No. 3 pitcher this time around behind Brooks and Hendrix after seeing only limited mound duty in 2008. Harper hit .313 in 48 at bats last season, and is the starter at third base.
He rest of the projected starting lineup includes Jack Blackwell at catcher, Phillip Westbrook at second base, Charlton Herpst in left field and speedy Andrew Chandler in right. Blackwell, Herpst and Chandler all saw some varsity action last season. Westbrook is the lone varsity rookie in the lineup.
Lexington opens the regular season with a home date against new region rival Richland Northeast on March 10.