The state high school baseball season starts March 13, but the defending 14th Region champions, the Letcher County Central Cougars, will not open their season until March 19 when they play at home against Leslie County.
Since beginning in his first season at newly consolidated Letcher County Central in 2006, Coach Bryan Dean has established arguably one of the best programs over the past eight years.
After going 18-14 in his first year, LCCHS won its first region title in 2007 with a 25-14 record. Regional titles followed in 2011 (21-16) and again last year (29-11).
During his tenure, Coach Dean has had one losing season when the Cougars posted a 16-17 record in 2009.
Powell County and Estill County have won a pair of regional titles in the past eight years and Perry Central has won once in this same span.
LCCHS graduated three seniors last year — including pitchers Jordan Short and Caleb Baker. Finding starting pitching depth will be the secret to this year’s squad, according to Assistant Coach Claude Little.
In last year’s regional tournament, the LCCHS pitching staff was perfect as the Cougars won all three games with shutouts. Seniors Max Hall and Zane Blair will fill the top pitching spots along with senior Stephen Fox.
The pitching depth will come from position players: Dakota Adams, Cody Baker, Tristan Cunniff, Andrew Fields, Nick King, Mason Salyers, Jordan Rose and Dakota Yonts.
The team has experience in nine seniors, three juniors and four sophomores and has a talented group of 10 freshmen.
Following their home opener, the Cougars travel to Wise County to play Union High on March 18, before returning home to host Sullivan North on March 21.
The Cougars are scheduled to play in the Derby City Classic at Louisville Butler during the first week of April.