Ozment enters 10th season at DC with high expectations

Monday, March 19, 2012

As Dyer County head baseball coach Preston Ozment enters his 10th season at the helm of the Choctaw program, he does so with the same expectations he did when he first took over the program nearly a decade ago.

By expecting a lot and the drive to be the best, Ozment and the program have flourished. Since taking over the program in 2002, Ozment has amassed an overall mark of 270-88 in nine years.

During his tenure, the Choctaws have advanced to the state tournament on four occasions and won the coveted title in 2009. While it's nice to be able to look back at the accomplishments, Ozment knows he will have plenty of time for that when his career comes to an end.

"We've had a lot of really good players come through here and they are the ones the credit should go to," he said. "We've accomplished a lot of goals in the past, but I'm really excited about what we have this year and our expectations to be the best don't change from season to season, and this year is no different."

To begin the 2012 campaign, Ozment expects to field a solid defensive group to go with a seasoned pitching staff as well as a strong lineup at the dish.

"We're trying to fill some voids but we have a good group. We'll go through some growing pains early in the season but as we go along I think these guys have the chance to be really good by the end of the year," Ozment said.

Though Ozment and staff are still in the process of moving players around to best fit the needs of the squad, the defensive lineup after one week is as follows:

1b -- Matt Smith (Sr.), Colton Harris

2b -- Tucker Cozort (Soph.), Tyler Brown (Soph.)

SS -- Andrew Massie (Sr.)

3b -- Cody Purvis (Soph.), Tyler Holcomb (Soph.), Brad Starks (Soph.)

C -- Adam Shell (Soph.), Beau Brooks (Jr.)

RF -- Tristan Barlow (Freshman)

LF -- Bryce Heathcott (Jr.), Wesley Martin (Sr.)

CF -- Drew Surratt (Sr.), Matt Pease

While the defense has a youthful appearance, the pitching rotation will feature an experienced unit led by University of Tennessee signee Colton Harris. The left-hander has been a force on the mound for three years at DC and along with teammates Quentin Haycraft, Massie and Surratt the Choctaws have a chance to be dominating from top to bottom.

"We've got four seniors with a ton of experience and I think they can beat anybody," said Ozment. "Any of those guys would be No.1s for a lot of teams so we're lucky to have them playing for us at Dyer County."

Also expected to see time on the mound are Paxton Stover and Barlow, as well as Tyler Brown and Tucker Haycraft.

"If everybody stays healthy we're going to be in good shape pitching-wise," he added. "Our pitchers are going to keep us in a lot of ballgames this year."

Under Ozment's direction, the Choctaw program has prospered during the last nine seasons. With a talented roster full of players ready and willing to get down and dirty to get the job done, the 2012 season might just end with the fifth trip to the big dance in school history.

"It's a mindset for us, but everybody knows you have to have the horses to win the race," added Ozment. "We've got experience where we need it and if we can continue to work hard and improve, this could be a special year."

DC will host Houston on Monday at 6:30 p.m. in its home opener.

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