HORSE CAVE — In 2017, Caverna high school found itself without a baseball coach and ultimately without a baseball program.
The Colonels are getting the baseball band back together.
Caverna principal Chase Goff appointed Frank Stratton to lead the reemergence of baseball in Horse Cave. The process began early last summer as Stratton was looking around for coaching opportunities.
Stratton had a conversation with Goff, exploring a chance to be a part of both the basketball and baseball program. Stratton — who is also an assistant for the Caverna boy's basketball team — has had a history on the field. He has the coaching experience to build a successful program. The Caverna baseball coach attended Western Kentucky University and settled in as a manager.
Reviving the program was something appealing to Stratton and he's ready to make the Colonels successful once again.
But to be successful, it starts with building from within. While some of the guys on the roster are new to varsity baseball, some are not short on experience, playing in grade school and middle school.
"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity," Stratton said. "It's a situation where we've got some good building blocks and some good pieces because of the youth baseball participation... These guys, even though they haven't had a varsity season in a while, there's a base of knowledge we're building from. That's something we can work with and that should work for us."
Caverna was unable to field a team one year ago due to not having enough players on the roster. In 2016, the season was cut short just three games into the regular season. During that span, the Colonels were outpaced 56-3, including a 25-0 loss to Green County — Caverna's final contest before shutting the program down.
"The baseball program hasn't been successful in a while," Stratton said. "There's going to be bumps along the way but we're ready to put the work into building it back up."
Expectations may be low at first for the Colonels, after all they are beginning a varsity season for the first time in nearly two years. But that, in itself, is not an excuse from Stratton. He's not feeling pressure from the athletic department to be successful right off the bat.
That doesn't mean there isn't pressure from himself. The coach has expectations for himself. He believes that pressure will help him.
"I've told my assistant coaches and I've told my guys, 'if there's a scoreboard that's operating and they are keeping score, then our goal needs to be to win the ballgame,'" Stratton said. "I think everybody on the team has been understanding and knowing where we're coming from and where we need to be. I put the pressure on myself to have my guys ready to perform and to compete at a high level. It starts with me as the head coach. That's the only pressure that I've received with (administrators) knowing what we're working with."
While the wins and losses will likely vary at first, Stratton knows to build a winning program it begins with the youth of the team. Caverna has one senior and nine players who are in seventh and eighth grade.
"I think our success will be determined by developing our younger players," Stratton said. "We have one senior on the team, so we're going to preparing and working to improve those younger guys as they come up through the program. I think that's where our success starts."
Stratton's job as the baseball coach began in early August, trying to recruit and lure players to join the team. It didn't matter if they had a baseball background or not, the goal was to find guys who wanted to be a part of something special.
When his duties as an assistant for the basketball program, an anxiety occurred within Stratton. He was nervous that only a handful of guys would show up, which wouldn't be enough to field a team once again.
In the end, nearly 25 players showed up.
"I would go up to guys in the hallway and ask them, 'Hey you look like a baseball player, are you interested in playing?,'" Stratton said with a laugh. "It was a difficult process at first. I was able to foster a few relationships that way. I was also able to foster relationships with my involvement with the basketball team... I was scared to death, after I was done with basketball, that only seven or eight guys would show up. But we had a nice turnout."
No more anxiety for the Colonels. The anxiety is now enlightenment.
"First pitch can't come soon enough," Stratton said.