ELKTON - The Elkton Blue Sox had a rough season last year, finishing in last place in the Eastern Division for the second consecutive season. Despite impressive performances at times, the team was never able to put together a run long enough to improve on their standing, and ended up getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Manager Dave Loker is hoping to turn things around in 2019.
“Hopefully we’re gonna have a better season than we did last year,” Loker said. “Last season we finished at the bottom, so we’re hoping to improve. I think we are. We have a lot of young new players that I think are gonna be real good.”
In addition to bringing in plenty of new talent, Loker has the core of his pitching staff coming back for this season, including Mark Arrington and Kris Lalk.
Arrington went 3-2 last season with a 3.60 ERA for the Blue Sox, pitching a complete game in every one of his five appearances. Lalk was even more impressive, despite posting a 1-4 record. The first-year pitcher finished the season with a 2.39 ERA and 87 strikeouts, winning Pitcher of the Year for his efforts. Now as they turn their attention to 2019, Loker feels confident in his staff.
“He had a good year. Like I said, we didn’t back him real well,” Loker said about Lalk. “I think this year we’ve got a deeper team than what we had last year.”
One of the biggest issues that the Blue Sox faced in 2018 was attendance. The team would regularly show up to games with only nine or 10 players, barely enough to play that night’s game. Loker thinks that the new guys he’s bringing in will be more motivated to show up night in and night out for the 28-game season.
“I’m hoping the young guys are gonna show up for us. I think we’ve got a lot of real good ones,” Loker said. “I’ve got quite a few high school guys that are playing this year.”
Loker has brought players in from East Rockingham High School, Madison County High School and Orange County High School to name a few. The young players mixed with the veterans of the team should provide a good core group of guys to lead Elkton to their hopeful resurgence this year.
“Hopefully it’s just a different atmosphere,” Loker said. “We’re just looking to have a whole different approach to the team this year than what we have. Last year we just got a little lax and guy stopped showing up and just a lot of different things went wrong. This year we’ll try to start out better and hope things go well for us.”
Other players returning to the Blue Sox for another season include Lee Carneal, who batted .426 with four home runs and nine RBIs last season, and Connor Lilley, who batted .288 with five RBIs.
Bradley Hanner, Jacob Slaughter and Trent Miller will all be returning as well, providing some stability to a team full of new faces. The Blue Sox will kick off their season on the road this Saturday against Grottoes.