Devil Pups lack experience on the diamond - Camp Lejeune Globe: Sports

Devil Pups lack experience on the diamond

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  • Jacob Still

    Photo by Ken Buday Lejeune High School's Jacob Still delivers a pitch during practice at Lejeune High School, Feb. 21. Still, a senior, is expected to pitch and play third base for the Devil Pups this season.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2019 8:45 am

Lejeune scheduled to open the season Friday against North Duplin

The Lejeune High baseball team returns just five players from a team that went 6-11 a year ago. The Devil Pups also have a new head coach, Edison Vega, whose goal is simply to help his players improve their skills and build their characters — all while winning some games.

“I see optimism. These kids are very positive,” Vega said. “I’ve been very open with them. There will be struggles. We have five returners, and everybody else is pretty new, so we have to start over. It’s like a rebuilding year and we have to build team chemistry, but they are doing a good job. They’ve been positive and they’re out here, and they got out here before I was, so that is awesome. They’re willing to help. They’re setting things up. They’re a bunch of good kids. I’m blessed. I’ve got a good group of kids.”

Jacob Still, a pitcher and first baseman, is Lejeune’s most experienced player and is one of just two seniors on the roster.

“This is his fourth year here, so I can feed off that,” Vega said. “He’s pretty much the leader of the team. It’s like he’s been waiting for his moment to shine and take over.”

Vega said he is also expecting good things from infielder Christopher Quinones, a junior entering his third year in the program. Other returners include Jacob Livesay, Ethan Skillings and Jonathan Wyble.

But, Vega also has five freshmen, some of whom will have to see significant playing time this year.

“We’ve been working a lot on individual drills, getting the fundamentals down, just building that muscle memory that all these kids need,” Vega said. “There are some bad habits, and I’m just here to help them get better habits, and tweak and modify those skills they do have.”

The lack of experience shows up mostly on the mound, where the Devil Pups have just one established pitcher in Still.

“It’s unfortunate. We have very little pitching experience,” Vega said. “Jacob is our only player with pitching experience, and from what I have heard, he only pitched three innings last year. We lost three seniors from last year, and all three of them were pitchers, and we had another pitcher who transferred, so we’re starting over when it comes to pitching. We’re finding out who is going to pitch and who can do what.”

With an inexperienced team, Vega expects some hard times this season but has told the players that they must battle through those.

“They’re understanding. They know that this year is going to be tough,” Vega said. “It’s not going to be easy, but that’s a good thing because it’s going to make them work hard.”

The Devil Pups are scheduled for just four non-conference games before the Coastal 8 Conference play begins. Lejeune is scheduled to open the season against North Duplin at 4 p.m. Friday in Calypso.

“Right now, our mindset is on getting ready for North Duplin, and after North Duplin, we go

from there,” Vega said. “We just have to take it one game at a time. In my mind, anybody can be beaten on any given day. I told them that no matter how good the

other team may be, my money is always going to be on them. They have to have the right mindset that’s going into every game, we’re going to win, no matter who we are playing.”

Vega believes in building team chemistry that, beyond wins and losses, will mean success.

“This season, I believe, is going to be a fun season,” Vega said. “Those teams that are out there thinking that Lejeune is going to be an easy game are going to be up for a surprise.”

Lejeune’s first home game is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 6, against Jones Senior.

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