CAMERON - Coach Eric James and the Cameron Dragons won 20 games last season before being turned away by eventual Class A state champion Madonna in the regional semifinals.
It was a veteran team that featured a pair of first team all-staters in Ryan Hughes and Mitchel French, along with lunch-pail guys like Taylor Neely, Austin Warsinsky, and Jake Walker as graduating seniors, but it's not as if the guys back out for spring practice were asking what the gloves were used for?
''We're young,'' said James, who enters his 11th season as coach at Cameron and 14th overall (217-122). ''The players that return from last year's squad have a lot of experience, so their attitude and willingness to prepare will be important in the development of new and inexperienced players.''
Three starters return in Mark Walker, Ivan Hall and the team's lone junior, Austin Pegg.
Walker, an honorable mention all-state selection as a junior, will be counted on at the plate and on the mound. The owner of a career batting average of .342, Walker figures to contend for the school record in saves.
''He has been one of the more steady production players in recent history of the program,'' James said.
The versatile - and speedy - Hall could return to an outfield position or see time at third base, according to his coach.
Pegg, who hit .322 last season, is back at first base and will log some innings on the mound as well.
Jordan Hart, who is coming off knee surgery from an injury sustained in football, figures to play center field for the Dragons, who were 20-9 last season.
An interesting group of seniors - Levi Knight, Devin Starcher, and David Klug - all played baseball at some point in their careers, have decided to come back out for their senior seasons. They could well find themselves filling some of those very large shoes left by last season's veterans.
Sophomores Logan Routt and Dalton Wood will compete for a starting job along with returner Dustin Cook. Newcomers are sophomore Chris Gouldsberry and freshmen Cole and Ryan Clutter, Cody Bayles, and Wyatt Mackey.
''We've got a lot of work to do and (early in camp) the weather hasn't been cooperative,'' James said. ''We'll take things one game at a time. I realize with a group like this, I'm going to have to be patient, but overall I believe in these kids and the work that they've put forth up to this point. They want to be successful, and I've found out that when you get a group that wants to achieve success, good things usually happen.''
James is assisted by Chad Clutter, who is familiar with a handful of these guys because he's the boys' basketball coach at the school.