By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
After one year as assistant baseball coach to Chad Hall, Joe Payne has taken the reins at West End High.
Hall stepped down last July after 14 seasons as coach of the Patriots. Hall’s teams made the state playoffs nine times and won six area championships. Under Hall, West End made it to the state semifinals twice and state quarterfinals once.
Payne, who was at Etowah for five years prior to returning to his alma mater, inherits a team that isn’t going to put a ton of runs on the board, but the Patriots won’t allow a lot of runs, either.
“Scrappy is a good word to describe us,” he said. “We’ve got several guys with decent pitching arms and there are three or four who will give us a chance to win every time they pitch “But we’ll have to manufacture a lot of our runs.”
There are but three seniors on the roster in Caleb Mayo, Ryan Mashburn and Ty Browning. Mayo, a shortstop/pitcher who bats leadoff, signed a baseball scholarship with Snead State earlier this year.
“Caleb’s going to set the tone for our offense,” Payne said. “He’s very good at making contact, and when he gets on, we will do a lot of different things to advance him. Look for him to score a lot of runs.”
Mashburn, a shortstop/pitcher/third baseman, will bat third and thus should drive in his share of runs.
“Ryan’s an above-average hitter,” Payne said. “He’s got decent power but isn’t going to put it over the fence a lot of times. He’s good at putting the ball in the gap and driving it down the lines, though.”
Browning is the fifth hitter and is the designated hitter/first baseman.
“Ty adds some pop to our lineup, but once again, not a ton of over the fence type pop,” Payne said. “Like most of the rest of our guys, he’s going to rely on contact and hitting a lot of singles and doubles.”
Junior Austin Russell, the starting first baseman, has more potential for home runs and will be the cleanup hitter.
“All in all, I think we’ve got a pretty good team this year,” Payne said. “We’ve got a good shot at making the postseason but it’s so hard to tell this early.”
West End’s Class 2A, Area 13 competition includes Westbrook Christian, Gaston and Sand Rock.