Things coming together for Rebels, new coach

The Boyle County Rebels and their new coach are starting to figure things out, even if the numbers don’t always add up in their favor.

Through the first half of the Boyle baseball team’s first season under coach Adam Blair, much of his work has been about learning what works and what doesn’t.

Now, as the midpoint of the regular season approaches, both Blair and the Rebels are starting to get a better idea of what they might become by the time the postseason approaches.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Blair said. “Right now we’re just figuring out what moves we need to make when and where, and hopefully by the end of the season we’ll be able to know those moves and when to make them and we’ll be able to make a big run towards the end of the year and into the postseason.”

Boyle took a 9-7 record into its game Monday at Rockcastle County. The Rebels lost four consecutive games in a six-day span — including back-to-back games against archrival Danville — before beating Bethlehem 13-4 on Friday.

Boyle wasn’t in need of a rebuilding job, but there was some retooling required for a team that isn’t as experienced as its roster might indicate.

One-third of the Rebels’ 24 varsity players are seniors, but many of them were behind more experienced players prior to this season. Boyle also had eight seniors last year on the team that didn’t get to play when the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not as experienced as people think,” Blair said. “A lot of our guys were behind eight seniors last year, so for some of them these are their first varsity games and at-bats.”

Pitcher-shortstop Eli Glasscock, one of Boyle’s seniors, said he and his classmates are playing together for the first time in a long time.

“This is really our first time as a team playing together,” Glasscock said. “We haven’t really played together since middle school as a team, and we have a lot of young guys stepping up.”

Boyle’s lineup has evolved into a mixture of older and younger players. In their two-game series against Danville last week, the Rebels started three seniors, one junior, four sophomores and one freshman.

“I think we’re starting to figure out things, where guys can play when we have certain guys on the mound, … whose bats are hot week to week, who hits lefties or righties better, (who hits) velo or softer stuff better,” Blair said.

Boyle averaged 3.25 runs per game during its recent losing streak and has averaged 4.75 runs in its other games, and Blair would like to see that number go up.

“We’ve got a good mixture of righties and lefties, and with our speed, we feel like our lineup’s pretty quick,” he said. “If we can get on base we can do things, but if we can’t get on base we can’t make things happen.”

Despite the recent losing streak, Blair said he’s sure the Rebels are making progress.

“I think that we have improved,” he said. “We (were) on a losing streak, but we’ve had a few injuries.”

Junior Luke Gaffney, Boyle’s top power source, returned last week from a brief absence due to injury — he homered in his first at-bat in his return — and senior Jack Briese was sidelined by an injury after seven games and remains out of action.

Blair was hired last summer to replace Kyle Wynn, who coached Boyle for eight seasons and led the Rebels to 12th Region championships in 2017 and ’18.

Blair is a 2007 Marion County graduate, and his familiarity with the Boyle program goes back to his high school playing days.

“I grew up playing with a bunch of guys from Boyle, knowing the tradition of the program,” he said. “In college I had some teammates from Boyle, and one of them ended up coaching with me … at Washington County.”

Blair played at St. Catharine College, where he was part of the 2009 team that won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship, then spent nine years at Washington. He was an assistant for three years before becoming head coach in 2015, and he led the Commanders to three 19th District titles in five seasons before being attracted to Boyle.

“The program has been very successful, and a lot of guys that I grew up playing with are still around the game here that I still talk with and hang out with and that help us,” said Blair, whose wife Jenna is the principal at Perryville Elementary School. “That’s important to me, too, being around guys that love the game just like I do, and being part of a program that loves sports in general, not just baseball. …. Whatever it is, they go full effort.”

Blair’s coaching staff includes Patrick Cooper, a 2007 Boyle graduate who reached the Double-A level in the Detroit Tigers’ organization after pitching for Eastern Kentucky and Bradley, and Adam Shartzer, who was the head coach at Mercer County from 2016-19.

Glasscock said it isn’t easy adjusting to a new coach, but he said the transition to Blair’s style and personality have been good.

“He brings a lot of intensity every day. He wants us to get better now matter what we’re doing, and I think that’s good for everybody,” Glasscock said. “He really cares about our players, and he just wants to win just like us. It doesn’t matter who’s hitting, who’s pitching, he just wants to win.”

The Rebels have been led at the plate by Glasscock, who was hitting .481 with three home runs and 11 RBIs through the first four weeks of the season, and Gaffney, who was at .450 with six HRs and 25 RBIs.

Other top hitters include sophomore Kason Myers (.314), senior Kamron Myers (.304, 6 2B, 16 RBIs) and sophomore Cole Sims (10 RBIs).

The team’s top pitchers include freshman Cameron Owens (2-1, 0.79 ERA), Glasscock (3-0, 1.47) and senior Nathan Eldridge (3-1, 3.20).

Three of Boyle’s seven losses have been by three runs or less, including two of the games in their recent losing streak. They lost to Western Hills 6-5 on a walk-off squeeze bunt, and they lost to Rockcastle 5-3 after leading 3-2 in the sixth inning.

“We’re playing in good baseball games, we’re just not coming out on the end that we want sometimes,” Blair said. “That comes and goes. Sometimes you’ll end up (with) four or five of them in a row where you’re on the right side.”

Glasscock said more of those games should go their way as they get more experience.

“Something we need to work on is just closing out these tough games at the end,” he said. “A lot of our losses we’ve been right there at the end of the game. We just need to figure out a way to win and grind out at-bats.”

He said the Rebels are glad to be back on the field after last year’s cancellation.

“There’s tough times going on in the world today, so I think we’re really grateful to be able to be out here,” Glasscock said. “We can’t take it for granted, because last year’s seniors got canceled out of nowhere. We’ve got to come out here and win ballgames and go on streaks and see what we can do in the district and region.”