’Hounds to swing for repeat fence

’Hounds to swing for repeat fence
Expect the Union City Greyhounds to come out swinging in their bid to repeat as Kitty League Tournament champions. While acknowledging the importance of good pitching and solid defense, Greyhound assistant coach Curtis Burkhalter says he believes UC “will be able to do some things with the bat,” after watching practice on Wednesday in preparation for the 2008 season opener against Tradewater Friday night at Elam Stadium. “We had a couple of guys, Justin Miller (Middle Tennessee State) and Ryan O’Gara (Valparaiso), the ball was just jumping off their bats today,” said Burkhalter, who’ll assist new Greyhound skipper Jonathan Estes. “A lot of people talk about the difference between the wooden bats and the aluminum, but if you put the barrel on it, the ball is going to jump off either one of them.” Estes, the head coach at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, takes over the Union City from Chris LeGuenec, who directed the ’Hounds to a second-place regular season finish and the league’s postseason title over seasonal champion Fulton in his only year at the helm. Burkhalter, who is a graduate assistant at Southern (La.) University after a solid playing career at Northwestern (La.) State, will work with the Greyhounds’ infield defense and serve as the team’s hitting coach. Burkhalter, already with degrees in psychology and computer information systems, says he has playing experience in a similar wooden bat league. That, and his love of the game, are personal traits he claims he’ll bring to the table for Union City’s KIT League entry this season. “I played for the St. Joseph Saints in the summer of 2005 and it was a great experience for me,” the Greyhound aide claimed. “Joba Chamberlain (New York Yankees) played in that league, and Mike Palfrey (New York Mets) did, too, so it was a good league. The ball comes off the bat a little differently, maybe a little slower, with wood as opposed to the aluminum bat. I don’t think it’ll take most of our guys time to adjust, though. “Personally, I just love the game. It’s been good to me and I’ve had a lot of good experiences and good influences. Hopefully, I can pass some of that on.” There are no returnees off last year’s tournament championship roster on this year’s Greyhound club. There are, however, some notables, more specifically former McKenzie prep standout Drew Hayes, now a member of the pitching staff at Vanderbilt. Hayes, along with infielder Cam Strang (Eastern Illinois) and catcher Logan Hostetler (David Lipscomb) will be late additions to the UC roster as all are competing with their collegiate teams in the NCAA Regional Tournament. Andrew Bever, a righthanded hurler, will also arrive late after participating in a junior college all-star game. Other than Hayes, the only Greyhound player with area ties is UT Martin infielder/pitcher Tanner Hensley, who prepped at Trenton Peabody. The UC roster does include Matt Phillips of Murray State, and two other players other than Miller (Jud Stoltz and Tyler Acker) from MTSU. Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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