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New Gaston baseball coach has high expectations

Ray Gardner takes over for Greyhounds and focuses on building up the program


First-year Gaston baseball coach Ray Gardner will face a lot of challenges this season, but there’s one thing he thankfully hasn’t had to deal with yet — getting the Greyhounds’ perenially sloppy field into playable condition.

“I feel like the luckiest guy in the world right now,” Gardner said while checking out the field conditions on Tuesday. “I’ve heard stories about the team not playing a home game all season because the field was under water, but right now it’s in great shape.”

The mild winter weather means that Gardner will get to spend more time coaching and less time groundskeeping, which should be a benefit for the youthful Greyhounds, who are currently starting a sophomore and two freshmen.

“I’ve definitely been doing a lot of tinkering and moving guys around so far this season,” Gardner said. “We have so much talent on this team, but I’ve told the guys since day one that building this program is like building a house — you start with the foundation, then you put the walls up and you finish with the roof.

“Right now we’re still working on the foundation.”

Gardner has a fantastic core to build around with senior all-leaguer Trevor Reynolds, twin brothers Alex and Ryan Sweet, plus junior Jarad Davis.

“I didn’t expect this to be easy, but my four best players are also my hardest workers, which is nice. That sets a good example for the younger guys,” Gardner said.

Reynolds and Davis will anchor the pitching rotation, while Davis can also play catcher, third base or shortstop. Ryan Sweet is another versatile player who could see time at shortstop or center field, while also closing out games as a relief pitcher.

Offensively, Gardner refers to Alex Sweet, the team’s No. 3 hitter, as the “thunder” in the lineup, while Ryan Sweet, the Hounds’ leadoff man, is the “lightning.” Reynolds will bat cleanup for Gaston while Davis also provides some power in the middle of the order.

While those talented veterans form the nucleus of this year’s team, several youngsters are also impressing the new coach.

Sophomore Bryce Cullers has found a foothold as the Hounds’ No. 2 hitter, and he has also started two games on the mound and pitched well.

“He’s been probably the biggest surprise so far,” Gardner said. “Early in the season we’re giving guys lots of opportunities to do different things and he’s really taken the opportunity and come up huge.”

Additionally, freshmen Jarred Talent and Dylan Losey have emerged as starters. Talent has started every game at second base, while Losey has played catcher and also served as a designated hitter.

“For a freshman to be starting every game, that’s pretty impressive,” Gardner said.

The new coach isn’t putting any unrealistic expectations on his team, he’s simply sticking to his plan of building up the program brick by brick.

“We’re just working on the foundation right now,” he said. “I think this team can be pretty good, but we’ve got to start with the foundation.”

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