Adair Baseball returns six starters from a team that went 18-17 a year ago, and hopes are high that the win-loss record — as well as the postseason performance — will be better in 2022.
“We have a nice core coming back,” says head coach Ryan McQueary, who is now in his second stint as the Indians’ head coach. This is McQueary’s third year back in charge of the program, and 18th overall as Adair’s varsity coach. “We’re ready and hungry and eager to get going, and I hope that shows when we finally take the field.”
McQueary won’t have to wait long to find out. The Indians open their season tonight against rival Russell County (1-0).
“They’re a really solid squad and will be a good test for us,” McQueary says. “For us to be successful, we’re going to have to throw strikes, and obviously, we’re going to have to hit with them, because they’re a good hitting team. I don’t want to make the season all about this first game, though.”
A five-player senior class will lead an otherwise young squad laden with talented freshmen and sophomores (Ryan Wilkerson is the only junior on the roster). Braxton Smith and Kaleb Keltner are returning after solid junior seasons, and Brian Cornelison rejoins the team after not playing last year. Carson Jessie and Brayden Rainwater had successful senior campaigns last year, but both took advantage of the supplemental year allowed because of COVID to return this season as well.
“That was big for us,” McQueary says. “We’ll rely a lot on those five guys to set the tone and be leaders for us. We’re very happy to return some really nice players, six starters, and see how we can improve this season. I hope to see them grow as baseball players and young men.”
Pitching and defense will be keys for the Indians this season.
“Defensively, we expect to be really solid, expect to have good fundamentals,” McQueary says. “That should be one of our strengths if we’re going to be successful.”
The pitching rotation lacks a clear-cut ace, but McQueary has plenty of talented players who can give him innings on the mound this season.
“We have a lot of solid guys that are going to give us a chance to win,” McQueary says. “We don’t have that dominant guy, but Braxton Smith does a great job, [Brayden] Rainwater is a good arm for us, Brayton Coomer, Carson Jessie, and Kaleb Keltner will all get innings, so we’re kind of looking for a few sophomores or freshmen to kind of pick it up for us and fill out that staff.”
Underclassmen McQueary mentioned who could work their way into the pitching rotation include sophomore Wesson Burton and freshmen Aiden Smith and Isaac Rodgers.
“We just have to throw strikes,” McQueary says. “We don’t have anyone throwing 85-plus, so we have to hit our spots, let our defense make plays, and not walk too many guys.”
If the pitching and defense do their jobs, and the bats come around, McQueary says his team should have a chance at its two primary goals: 20 wins and a region tournament berth.
“We’re in one of the toughest districts around year-in and year-out,” McQueary says. “It’s going to be tough again, but I think 20 [wins] and making region are doable for us. We came up two wins short last year, and lost first round of the district, so we have some unfinished business there.”
Click here to view the Tribe’s full schedule.
This year’s roster includes:
• Senior Brian Cornelison
• Senior Carson Jessie (5th year)
• Senior Kaleb Keltner
• Senior Brayden Rainwater (5th year)
• Senior Braxton Smith
• Junior Ryan Wilkerson
• Sophomore Hayden Bennett
• Sophomore Wesson Burton
• Sophomore Jake McQueary
• Sophomore Bode Richard
• Freshman Brody Brock
• Freshman Dalton Campbell
• Freshman Brayton Coomer
• Freshman Jacob Forester
• Freshman Zane Gist
• Freshman Jagger Kemp
• Freshman Connor Loy
• Freshman Isaac Rodgers
• Freshman Aiden Smith
• 8th grader Landon Holmes
• 8th grader Bryce Russell