Pilots look to continue ongoing growth, up wins

by Benita Fuzzell

Jon Paitsel will return for his second season at the Fulton County High School Pilots’ Head Baseball Coach, and this year, he will once again be joined by Assistant Coach Jason Gibbs, in his third season and Phillip Uzzle, Volunteer Assistant, for the second year.

Over the course of the past three seasons, the Pilots have accomplished major improvements each year, going from a winless season to eight wins in the 2023 baseball season.

Along with the Pilots increased win column, the team proved themselves as worthy competitors over the past three years, recording one three-inning game loss in the 2023 season, as compared to six games in the 2022 season which ended with three-inning losses.

This year’s goal is to not only match the win record from the preceding year, but to break in to the double digit number of wins in 2024.

Two seniors return to the Pilots’ roster, Logan Griffiths and Jon Rey Major.

“I expect Logan to be a leader on the field and in the dugout while manning the outfield and middle infield. Jon Rey has improved so much over the past few years and will see more time in the outfield,” Coach Paitsel said.

There are high expectations for the junior class which includes Braxton Bridges, 1st Base and Pitcher; JC Parker, pitcher and middle infield; Javon Kimmons, Catcher, 2nd Base and Outfield; and Ashden Perez, outfield.

The sophomore class is expected to take a large leap in production and includes Cooper Scott, 3rd Base and 1st Base; Keaton Goodson, Pitcher, 3rd Base and Outfield, and Austin Todd, Middle Infield and Outfield.

The freshman class is represented by Preston Smith, Pitcher, Catcher, Infield and Outfield; Tyler Jackson, 2nd Base, First Base and Outfield; and Dalton Blankenship, catcher, outfield, and middle infield; Tristan Parker, whose hitting will place him in a DH role; and Will Jackson, outfield.

Rounding out the numbers for the team will be four middle school players, Maddux Amburg, middle infield and outfield; Hunter Stonecipher, third base and outfield; Roger Poyner, 2nd Base and Outfield, and Ethan Poyner, Outfield.

“We have a good idea where everyone fits. But we will still take the opportunity to improve the line up and give opportunities to the players that perform in practice and when in the game,” Paitsel said.

JC Parker and Preston Smith will bear the burden of being the starting pitcher in most cases.

Braxton Bridges, Keaton Goodson, and Logan Griffiths will each earn some time in the starting rotation during the season.

These five young men will be in the pitching roles as they demonstrate the best velocity, control and experience.

The coaching staff wants to see all players lead, however, as with any team some players step up and lead vocally and some just lead through example.

Logan Griffiths has stepped into the senior leadership role and keeps everyone on an even keel. Preston Smith is stepping up leading by being vocal in helping the younger players understand their roles and positions. JC Parker is our Junior leader and leads by example in game and preparation.

Braxton Bridges has taken the leadership role of keeping the team positive and enthusiastic in practice and games.

When asked to determine the strength of this team, experience was at the forefront, with the return of not just a good number of players, but seen starters from last season.

The challenge, according to the coaches, will be to maintain focus and competitiveness when playing larger schools in the Kentucky Region, as the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, KHSAA, does not classify baseball.

In addition to breaking through to the double digits in wins this season, playing for the District Championship is also a focused goal.