HORSE CAVE — Two years ago, Caverna didn’t field a baseball team, and the Colonels failed to finish their season in 2016.
Under new coach Frank Stratton, Caverna won its first game in more than three years last season, and the Colonels finished this year with an 8-18 record after falling to defending region champion LaRue County on Tuesday in the District 18 tournament.
“The focus has been on doing things the right way, and getting guys out to play,” Stratton said.
“We’re starting to do some offseason stuff that all the other programs do that we just haven’t been able to do in the past.”
Stratton has led the revitalization of a program that has a storied history. Caverna won a state championship in 1961 with a roster that featured future Major League players Joe Campbell and Denny Doyle.
While Caverna didn’t compete for a district title or a trip to the region tournament this season, Stratton said the goal is to turn the Colonels into a consistent program such as LaRue County.
In order to do that, Stratton said it’s important for Caverna to have a solid youth program that develops younger players and exposes them to baseball at an early age.
“That’s going to be as big as anything as far as continuing the varsity program,” he said. “You can’t teach kids in high school how to play high school baseball. So the next big step is getting that feeder program back up and running, and just building.”
Caverna has several key players who should be returning in 2020, as the team loses just one senior in outfielder Tony Spears.
Shortstop Drew Rhodes was named to the all-district team this season as a junior, and is one of Caverna’s best hitters.
Also a junior last season, pitcher Spencer Shirley was considered the ace of the staff.
Weston Dennison, Hayden Zavaleta and Trey Webb are also slated to return for the Colonels.
“I’m glad for the guys that they’ve had some success this season,” Stratton said in reference to the team’s number of wins.
“It’s more than two, and it’s more than not playing.”
Caverna hadn’t finished a full season in two years before 2018, which is one of the small victories Stratton said is needed in order to build momentum for the program.
He acknowledged that patience will be needed to bring Caverna back to a team.
“The whole time, we’re trying to do things the right way, both on the field and off the field,” Stratton said. “Eventually, that’s going to lead to some success.”