The defending 15th Region champion Paintsville Tigers will look to repeat the success of last season, going to their first state tournament in almost 30 years in 2018.
The Tigers finished last year with a record of 26-13 advancing all the way to the quarterfinals of the state tournament to face Highlands at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Paintsville eventually fell to the Bluebirds 5-0.
Coach Walt Crace and his Tigers lost key players from last year’s 15th region title team in the likes of Ben Daniels, who, will be hard to replace. Also gone is starting pitcher Tanner Smith, who, started on the mound for Paintsville in the quarterfinal game against Highlands last season. The Tigers will have to find replacements for Ryan Moore and Matt Combs as well.
The stable is by no means empty for coach Crace’s squad, though. He will return many players with state tournament experience, who have faced SEC-type pitching, like the Bluebirds’ Hunter Dreves, who now pitches for the Tennessee Volunteers.
The big bright spot for the Tigers will be the return of infielder and Louisville-commit, Seth Williams. He has been a mainstay for the Tiger program for what seems like ages, but will only be a junior this season. He has the glove, arm and definitely the bat to keep runners off the base paths, while being able to move runners around them offensively. Williams will be looked at for his leadership and experience this year for Paintsville.
The Tigers will be a young ball club, with only two seniors on the roster, Matt Baldwin and Braxton Ratliff. Ryan Gibson, who, also saw extensive playing time in the region and state tournaments last season will return for his sophomore campaign.
Coach Crace will have many tools at his disposal. With the Tigers being young, he will return most of his team for the next couple of years. However, one thing that is in Paintsville’s favor is his young players have experience.
The Tigers open the 2019 season on Monday March 18th on the road as they will travel to the W.C. Hambley Athletic Complex to take on region rival Pikeville. First pitch is slated for 6:00 pm.
Paintsville’s home-opener will be the following night as the Tigers welcome defending 60th district champ Pike Central to Charlie Adkins Field. That game is also scheduled for a 6:00 pm start.
Other notable games on the Tigers tough slate are March 23rd, when Paintsville travels to Tates Creek to battle the Commodores. That will be a day game starting at 3:00 p.m. April 12th, the Tigers will get the chance to exact revenge as the take on the Highland Bluebirds in the Doc Morris Invitational. Game time is set for 7:45 p.m. Paintsville will play a tough Ballard squad the next day at 12:15 pm also in that tournament. The folks of Johnson County will want to clear their calendars for April 23-24th. First, Johnson Central will visit Paintsville on the 23rd and the following day, the Tigers will travel across town to take on their arch-nemesis on the 24th. Both games are scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
Paintsville will try and defend its region title.