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Martinsville Junior Mustangs building on learning experiences this fall
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Martinsville Junior Mustangs building on learning experiences this fall

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This fall is all about learning experiences for the Martinsville Junior Mustangs team.

The Mustangs, sitting at 3-1 in the early parts of the season, have impressed head coach Terry Carter thus far. After an 11-4 loss last week, the team bounced back with a 3-2 victory Friday night.

“It’s a learning experience,” Carter said following Friday’s win. “They understood that you can’t just show up and play. It doesn’t happen like that. You’ve got to put the work in and concentrate. You’ve got to come ready to play. They rebounded well tonight and played a very, very good game.”

“The season is starting off strong. We only had one game where we didn’t play together as a team,” said Mustangs catcher Hunter Powell. “We tried doing too much individually and it didn’t work out for us. Altogether we’re doing great. Everything that we expected, that’s what we’re doing. Pitching well, hitting well, making plays in the field. It’s good.”

The Mustangs, a development program part of the Martinsville Mustangs Coastal Plain League squad, will play through the end of the October. Here’s more of what Carter and Powell have seen from the team so far.

Getting at-bats

Even with 19 players on the roster, Carter has worked hard to make sure he’s swapping players throughout the games and getting everyone at least one or two innings in the field and one at-bat every game. He sees this fall as a chance for players to simple get more playing time to get ready for the high school season this spring.

“It’s not easy working in 19 players but so far I’ve been able to work them in,” Carter said. “I wanted to take the first three games to get an understanding of my players, what I have, who is standing out at each position. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the starting lineup is going to be and the guys I’m going to work in as the game goes on. So far it’s worked really good.”

The Mustangs coaches have been stressing fundamentals over everything. Carter’s hope is that when the high school seasons begin in April – later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic – the players have games under their belt and they’re more ready to play.

“In the spring it’ll be more structured… but now we’re developing more guys to get them ready to play at a high level of baseball,” he said. “This is good baseball. We’re facing some good pitching so far. It’s what these guys need. A lot of these guys haven’t had fundamental teaching.

“Know what to do with the ball when you get it. Know your position. Being able to understand pitch count, understand what pitch is coming next so you can position yourself and your swing. It’s not just guessing. If you understand how pitchers pitch you can become a better hitter. That’s just some of the things that we’re teaching them… It’s starting to come together.”

On the mound

One area where Carter said he has no questions is the pitching rotation. Garret Kangas, a senior at Carlisle committed to Campbell University, and Drew Fisher, a senior at Bassett High School, have impressed as starters with solid relievers behind them.

“Garret is definitely a really good pitcher. I can always rely on Garret,” Carter said. “Drew is really good pitcher as well. Drew commands the strike zone well. Every day I go to the Y to lift weights Drew is in the Y. I see him every day I go over there. He’s asking me different things, what to do, different types of workouts he can do to help increase his velocity or just help get his arm in shape, condition his body. I’ve showed him some different things to do. He’s taking the necessary steps to become a better player. He’s not just doing it at practice, he’s doing it in the weight room as well.

“Drew and Garrett has been very good. Colin Cunningham has been very good on the mound, Taylor Holthausen has been very good on the mound. Those guys have done really well. Overall we’ve got a really good pitching staff and they seem to mesh really good with our catchers.”

Away from the field

Many of the Mustangs players have gotten additional work in at the gym and weightroom, an area where Carter said it’s important for young players to focus. It’s part of why he think they’ve had success on the field so far.

“That’s what a lot of kids don’t understand is when you play a sport you can’t just work out on the field, the basketball court, the football field. You have to get in the weight room,” Carter said. “Most of these guys go early in the morning as well. I know all the Carlisle guys go every morning, at 6 o’clock they go to Gym24. These guys, they’re taking the necessary steps to become better baseball players.”

Powell, a senior at Magna Vista, added that much of the team’s success comes from the fact they’re all from the local area and know each other so well.

“Our chemistry, since we were little we’ve played together,” Powell said. “Since we started out playing baseball we’ve been together so that helps a lot. And I think just knowing how each other plays allows us to react to each pitch, to each play that’s hit.”

This week

The Mustangs were back at Hooker Field Tuesday night for a contest against the Scarlets. Results were too late for publication.

The Junior Mustangs will return to Hooker Field on Friday night for the second game of a doubleheader beginning at 7:40 p.m.

The other younger Mustangs teams will also play at home this week. The Ponies will play on Thursday at 7 p.m., and the Racers will play on Friday at 5:30 p.m., the first game in the scheduled doubleheader.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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