By Alex Howle
Senior shortstop Johnathan Stokes is eager to get back on the diamond for one last chance to lead the Bulldogs to a Southern Conference Championship.
Stokes has stepped up this fall as a leader and looks to pull this team tightly together when the season rolls around in February. He will have to be a more vocal guy on the field this year to keep the young players on the right track. Stokes believes this team will have better chemistry with a different mindset from last year.
Stokes’ batting average for the 2014 season was .254 with 10 doubles and 36 RBIs. In conference play he improved and batted .289 with 6 doubles and 19 RBIs. Stokes has set himself a high goal for his final season in a Bulldog uniform to bat over .300 in the 2015 season, while hitting above .320 when conference play comes around.
Stokes has nothing but good things to say about the job new hitting coach Aaron Gershenfeld has done since joining this team in June as Coach Gershenfeld has prepared the hitters to the best of their abilities and it has paid off over the duration of the fall season.
“Coach Gershenfeld brings a lot of energy and knowledge to the team and thinks that the hitters will step up after losing (first baseman/DH) Bo Thompson and (second baseman) Mason Davis to the MLB Draft,” Stokes said. “If the bats stay hot, then this will be a big year for the Bulldog baseball team.”
Stokes has started at shortstop since he was a freshman and has been very consistent in the field. His fielding average in 2014 was .968 while turning the team-leading 17 double plays.
He is very anxious for the season to start and says he has a good feeling about this year. He believes all of their hard work in the offseason will pay off and did not like how the season ended last year, so they all are looking to bounce back strong in 2015.
Being the senior leader that he is, Stokes talks highly of the pitchers this year and the amount of depth they will have in the bullpen to fall back on. Stokes said the Bulldogs have 14 returning pitchers with the addition to 12 new freshmen pitchers. He believes the Bulldogs will have one of the best pitching rotations in the Southern Conference this year as they have looked very stout this fall, but they must remain healthy when conference plays comes around.
Stokes has set many goals for the upcoming season for himself, as well as the team. He says he wants to make the All-Southern Conference team, hit over .300 for the year, and win the Southern Conference Championship. Most importantly, his ultimate goal is to get drafted at the end of the year and his main goal for the team is to make it to Omaha for the College World Series because he says that has always been his dream goal ever since he picked up a baseball at a very early age.
Alex Howle, a cadet from Darlington, is a student in Andy Solomon’s Sport Communications class.