By BEN JOHNSON
All Nick Zodrow has known during his time at Tahlequah is that Lane Cobb is to be penciled in at the catcher spot for nearly every game. However, that all changes this year.
With Cobb now at Northern Oklahoma College in Enid, Tahlequah will be left to explore new options in 2014.
“Replacing a four-year starting catcher is never easy,” said Zodrow on the eve of another Tahlequah baseball season. “But we fully expect Austin Riley to not only fill those shoes but perform at a high level.”
While Riley is replacing Cobb, others will have to fill the voids left by Logan Lewis in the outfield and Connor Mutzig at first base.
“We will no doubt miss Logan and Connor’s production on the field,” Zodrow said. “But again, we expect their replacements to perform at a high level.”
All those new replacements will be put to the test when Tahlequah opens up the 2014 season at home Tuesday against Inola. The Tigers are coming off a 13-21 season but came up one win shy of the 5A state tournament.
“First and foremost, we have a great group of kids with an awesome chemistry,” Zodrow said. “They have fun and relaxed, which allows them to just go play hard. I feel if we get some consistency offensively, we will have a good chance to win a lot of games with our pitching and defense being solid.”
Pitching will be the least of Zodrow’s concern when staff ace Houston Glad is on the mound. Glad, Riley and Colby Brittain will be the keys cogs in Tahlequah’s lineup all year long.
“Houston, Austin and Colby are going to be huge pieces to our success both offensively and defensively and pitching,” Zodrow said.
In terms of District 5A-3 play, Zodrow sized up this year’s competition.
“As always, Claremore will be good with a tradition of just knowing how to win,” Zodrow said. “And I believe Collinsville will be a tough test as anyone in our district. I am sure it will once again come down to the last weekend, as it did this past year.
“With that said, our pitching at the top of our rotation is second to none and will give us a shot to win a lot of district games.”
As for coming just short of the state tournament last year, Zodrow said it’s all a learning experience as the Tigers attempt to get over the hump in 2014.
“We have put ourselves one game away the past two years and have fallen short,” Zodrow said. “But in those big games, we played a lot of young guys who will have to fill significant roles this year and hopefully that experience will bode well for us.”