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This weekend, the Frank Phillips College Plainsmen baseball team will get the 2012 season underway by hosting Luna Community College out of Las Vegas N.M., in a four game series. The first of two doubleheaders will start tomorrow at noon ,with the second doubleheader taking place on Saturday with a noon start as well.
The Plainsmen Baseball program enters the season essentially with a fresh start due to having a new coaching staff and only two players returning from the 2011 team.
Kurtis Lay took over as the head coach of the Plainsmen late in the summer of 2011 and brings with him a good amount of energy and optimism in turning the Plainsmen into a team that is good on the field and one in which the Texas Panhandle can take pride.
Lay is familiar in how baseball is played in the WJCAC, spending time as a player at Odessa College and two years on the coaching staff at Western Texas College in Snyder.
Prior to his arrival at Frank Phillips, Lay spent the 2010-11 year as an assistant coach at Cochise College in Douglas Ariz. But the opportunity to return to Texas and take a head coaching position at Frank Phillips was something Lay could not pass up.
Even though he has been in Borger less than a year, Lay is open about what he likes about FPC, saying, â€śOne of the things I have been impressed with is the support for the program and students from the administration and teachers at the college. The support and family-type atmosphere is something I know I can use as a selling point when trying to bring in players who are looking for a good place to play baseball.â€ť
By taking the head coaching position in late July, Lay didnâ€™t have a lot of time to try to put together a full roster before the start of the fall semester.
But by Lay and assistant coach Joseph Kennworthy putting in a lot of effort working the phones to contact several players and coaches, they were able to put together a roster of 26 players Lay believes should be competitive this spring. The current roster has 13 new faces that came to the school this spring semester, but includes transfers from Texas Tech University and the University of New Mexico who should be able to contribute immediately.
Due to the late summer coaching change, the only returning players from last season are infielder Cesar Wong and outfielder/pitcher Nolan Hoskins.
In looking at the 2012 Plainsmen roster, one noticeable difference is the roster will represent the Lone Star well, with only four players coming from outside of Texas. In that group, the Plainsmen will have eight players from the Amarillo/Canyon area, which falls in line with Layâ€™s plans to take advantage of talent that is available locally.
Four of those Amarillo area players come from Randall High School, a program the Plainsmen have built a solid relationship with in recent years along with Palo Duro.
But Lay has seemed to lay the ground work in developing relationships with all the Amarillo area high schools by bringing in infielder Larren Artis from Amarillo High, infielder Coby Roming from Canyon High School, left-handed pitcher Brad Wieck from San Jacinto Academy, and right-handed pitcher/outfielder Sterling Kiper from Bushland High School.
On his approach to recruiting in Texas and the Amarillo area, Lay said, â€śI understand the program has done a good job bringing in players from places like Florida and New Mexico and I want to continue to bring in good players from wherever we can get them. But as a community college program, I think it is important that we try to build good relationships with local high school coaches and make Frank Phillips College a place the Texas Panhandle supports.â€ť Lay added, â€śThere are good high school baseball programs in Amarillo, Lubbock and in the other communities in the area and I want players in the area to know that Frank Phillips College is a good place for them to have the opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level.â€ť
Lay said he expects the traditional powers of Howard College, Midland College, and New Mexico Junior College to once again have good teams and be the favorites to win the WJCAC. But with coaching changes at Clarendon College and Western Texas College. along with Frank Phillips, it makes it hard to know what to expect in conference play entering the season.
Going into this season, Lay said his main objective is to have the team focus on accomplishing short term goals instead of worrying about what might happen throughout the season. Lay said, â€śMy approach is to think about the game we have coming up and focusing on what can be done to make us better than the last game. Naturally it is easy to want to look ahead or see what needs to happen in order to possibly make the post-season tournament. But if we can do a good job on just focusing on what we need to do game by game then I think we will be successful.â€ť