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Volunteers, Bulldogs, Tigers ready to take the field

Lee Williams, Kingman, Kingman Academy set to face off over section title

Kingman Academy’s Jeffry Chinyere slides into the waiting tag of Lee Williams’ shortstop Paul Giglio during last year’s April 8 game at Southside Park. Both players are back for the 2016 season. (File photo)

Kingman Academy’s Jeffry Chinyere slides into the waiting tag of Lee Williams’ shortstop Paul Giglio during last year’s April 8 game at Southside Park. Both players are back for the 2016 season. (File photo)

KINGMAN - One wants its experience to carry it into the playoffs. Another wants to earn respect, and the third is in rebuilding mode and looks to answer a lot of questions.

The Lee Williams, Kingman and Kingman Academy baseball teams are members of Division III, Section V, which also includes River Valley, Chino Valley, Lake Havasu, Wickenburg and Mohave.

Chino and Havasu are each coming off of respectable seasons. Chino went 17-10 last year, but the Cougars have graduated two pitchers that combined for 107 1/3 innings. Chino does return its top hitter.

Havasu went 27-4 last year. However, the Knights have just four players returning to this year's squad.

Lee Williams returns everyone from its 2015 roster and has a couple of key additions as well. This is the first season with a senior class for the Volunteers, who went 17-8 overall last year and finished ranked No. 26.

Lee Williams hit .320 as a team in 2015, and return all-city shortstop Paul Giglio (.403), right fielder Carter Rhoades (.313), and catcher Kenyon Rowley (.417).

Pitching should also be strong with the return of all-city hurler Nate Cottrell, along with Giglio and Rhoades eating up innings. The Vols had a team earned run average of 3.30 led by Cottrell (2.76), Giglio (2.19) and Rhoades (1.00).

Lee Williams opens the season at Mohave in a freedom game at 6 p.m. today in Bullhead City.

Kingman seeks respect

The Bulldogs are coming off a rough regular season in 2015 when they went 3-16.

Kingman does have some experience with five returning starters, but they are also classified as young with three starting freshmen and one sophomore.

KHS baseball coach Chad Baitinger expects his pitching staff to be one of the Bulldogs' strongest points. Freshman Rilee Araya, freshman Luke Ness, junior Derek Brown and senior Colton Stanley are expected to hold down the fort on the mound.

Baitinger said he's excited about junior catcher Anthony Pinto joining the varsity squad. Pinto replaces all-city utility player Jacob Cave behind the plate.

"We should be very solid defense-wise," Baitinger said. "Our goal this year is to bump our offense up to another level so that we become a team to be respected and reckoned with."

The Bulldogs celebrate opening day by hosting River Valley in a freedom game at 3:45 p.m. today.

Kingman Academy: The mystery team?

After finishing just one spot out of the postseason at No. 25 last year, Kingman Academy enters the 2016 campaign with a lot of unknowns.

Do the Tigers have pitching depth? Can a team that hit .335 a season ago do it again?

Most of Kingman Academy's pitching staff from last year graduated. The good news is that the Tigers have all-city hurler J.J. Griffith back on the roster. Griffith had an ERA of 2.50 in 50 1/3 innings pitched. He's a work horse, but KAHS baseball coach Bill McCord needs more. The Tigers hope that senior Jeffry Chinyere and sophomore Kannon Butler can provide quality innings while more arms are discovered.

The offense has as many questions as the pitching. Five of last year's top six hitters are gone, and Chinyere and Griffith are expected to lead at the plate as well. Butler should also help offensively, but the inexperienced Tigers are going to have to step up to the challenge if the Academy is going to make another run toward the postseason.

The Tigers are using opening week to get as many games in as possible before the regular season starts. Academy is at Bagdad High's Copper Classic tournament Friday and Saturday before meeting Mohave in a freedom game at 6 p.m. Monday in Bullhead City.