March 13, 2013 2:13:15 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
CALEDONIA -- Confidence is contagious.
Whether it is at the top, middle, or bottom of the lineup, the Caledonia High School baseball team has relied on a variety of contributors to get off to a fast start this season.
Caledonia's confidence at the plate may best be on display at the heart of the order, where Caleb Brown and Nathan Kendrick have provided the spark for rally after rally.
"I have a lot of confidence in Caleb," Kendrick said. "He has been hitting it real good."
Said Brown, "I can remember numerous times when I have been on base or we have had runners on second or third and Nathan drives me in every time."
Brown and Kendrick played key roles last week in helping the Confederates post victories in seven of their first eight games.
For their accomplishments, Brown and Kendrick are The Dispatch's Prep Players of the Week.
Brown was 6-for-12 for the week with two doubles, a home run, and three RBIs. He also pitched six hitless innings and didn't allow a run or a walk. He also struck out 10.
Kendrick also was 6-for-12. he had three doubles, a home run, and six RBIs.
"I think things are going really good," Brown said. "We are both hitting pretty good, and this weekend has been a big confidence-booster going for the rest of the season.
On Tuesday, Caledonia improved to 8-1 with a 15-1 victory against French Camp at the East Webster tournament. Caledonia's game against Calhoun City on Monday was postponed.
Zach Cox had a double, Jeremy Reed-Wood had two hits and three RBIs, and Ryan Unruh was the winning pitcher. He went three innings and struck out three. Chase Farrish pitched the final three innings. He also struck out three.
Caledonia coach John Wilson said Kendrick and Brown work as hard or harder than anyone on the team. He said their work rate and dedication to get better help set the tone for the team.
"Nathan will take what you tell him and try to use it and instill it in what he is doing and go on," Wilson said. "Caleb is more of a natural athlete, but he still works hard at whatever he is doing."
Wilson credited assistant coach Cody Brownlee, a former standout at Nettleton High and East Mississippi Community College, for working with the hitters. He said Kendrick, a senior, and Brown, a junior, showed signs last season they could be key contributors. Brown hit at the top of the lineup last season and led the Confederates in batting average for most of the season. Wilson said Kendrick came on late to lead the team in batting average, while Brown, who also plays shortstop, emerged as a go-to pitcher.
Both players have carried that momentum over to this season. Brown is hitting in the No. 3 spot in the order where he feels more comfortable. With Unruh and Kendrick hitting behind him, he knows he has support behind him if he isn't able to deliver.
Kendrick shares that confidence. He said the Confederates have relied on production throughout the lineup to get off to such a fast start.
"I have continued what I was doing at the start of the season, but I feel like it is really starting to kick in," Kendrick said. "I have been able to come up here before practice and work on hitting, and I am still working as hard as I can during practice."
Kendrick said the team has been playing well thanks to that balance up and down the lineup. Brown feels the success one batter has helps others be more relaxed and know they can contribute.
Kendrick hopes that mind-set continues to help drive the Confederates.
"I think I have grown a good bit," Kendrick said. "The work ethic has definitely been there, and a lot of it is trusting the people around you so you don't feel like you have to do everything. I trust Caleb is going to drive in so runs so it doesn't feel like I have to. I want to every time, but it isn't like it is going to ruin the game if I don't."
On Saturday, Caledonia defeated Bruce 15-5 and lost to East Webster 7-6.
Against Bruce, Logan Lux was 2-for-3 with a run the three RBIs, Todd Giles was 1-for-3, Brown was 1-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, Trey Lancaster was 1-for-2 with a run scored, Luke Eads was 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, Jake Stewart was 1-for-1 with an RBI, Reed-Wood was 1-for-1 with a run scored and an RBI, Kendrick was 2-for-2 with three runs scored, four RBIs, a double, and a home run, Jared Studdard was 2-for-4 with a run scored, Farrish was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, two RBIs, and a double, and Jonathan Comer scored two runs.
Eads pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs, and one walk. He struck out five. Stewart pitched 1 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and two earned runs. He struck out two.
Against East Webster, Blake Burke was 1-for-4, Brown was 3-for-5 with a double, Eads was 1-for-2 with a run scored, and an RBI, Reed-Wood was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two doubles, Kendrick was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a double, Studdard was 1-for-2, and Farrish had an RBI.
Garrett Glenn pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up two hits, one run, and three walks. He struck out five. Cox pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs. He struck out one. Todd Giles and Tyler Battles also pitched.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.