Harris came to Woodstock in 2011 as an assistant coach under Scott Krug, and he took over the head-coaching position when Krug became the school’s athletic director.
“The guys that were freshmen when I was an assistant are now seniors,” Harris said. “I have been with that senior class the whole time. I pretty much feel like I know all our kids in the program. I know their strengths and their weaknesses, which I think bodes well for me because I can put them in the right positions. That’s what we have been doing in the offseason and starting out.”
The Wolverines returned their top two starting pitchers from 2013, in seniors Tanner Thomson and Parker Austin.
“I’m feeling real good about how they have performed so far and what they bring to the table from a pitching standpoint,” Harris said. “They are definitely two aces on our pitching staff, and I think how they go is going to determine how we go as a team as well.”
Thomson also serves as Woodstock’s designated hitter when he isn’t on the mound.
The Wolverines returned a total of five starters from last season, including two outfielders, the third baseman and the second baseman.
Depending on who they are facing, Woodstock may have as many as six veteran players in the lineup.
“We are returning a lot of kids that have played in our program, and a couple of other kids that didn’t start last year but are going to be pretty good contributors for us.”
Among those new contributors is junior catcher Sam Mang.
With so many players returning, Woodstock doesn’t lack chemistry.
“Since I’ve been here, this team probably has the best chemistry, in my eyes,” Harris said. “I feel like this team right here has a lot of chemistry because they have played together the last couple of years.”
Some teams with as much experience as the Wolverines might be considered one-and-done teams — meaning they are loaded with seniors and won’t have veterans next season.
The largest class on Woodstock’s roster are actually juniors, with a dozen. Among them are Mang, Chandler Adams, A.J. Hayes, Will Long, Josh Loud, Johnathan Meuse and Tyler Shields.
“They have kind of been here since I’ve been here and I’ve really gotten to know that junior class,” Harris said. “I think all of those kids are going to mean a lot to us and make us a cohesive group.”
With so many returning players, many already know their roles on the team.
Harris said that when he started at Woodstock, he focused on having pitchers throw as far into a game as possible, often throwing complete games whether they won or lost. Now, he has developed a staff with starters, middle relievers and closers.
“The first couple of years, I just threw guys out there that I thought could get some outs,” Harris said. “Back then, they pitched seven innings. Now, we have definite starters, definite relief and closer-type guys. Their roles are a lot more defined now, creating depth, and our pitching staff has really helped us against the competition. I think they are comfortable in their roles because the starters know they have the bullpen. The bullpen guys can go in and just focus on one or two innings. It gives them confidence that they can get the job done.”
Harris said the changes to the Region 5AAAAAA scheduling format, which now consists of two-game home-and-home series with each opponent, forced him to make the changes to the pitching staff. Coaches can no longer stack pitchers against an opponent.
“I think it really forces your hand now to develop a third pitcher who can compete at a (Class) AAAAAA level,” Harris said. “We have had competition for that third spot this year. So far, I think that is going to help our pitching staff. I think, if you see a team two days in a row, you can see their tendencies a little more, and that will benefit us in the long run.”
The Wolverines, 3-2 on the season, will host Marietta on Friday at 5:55 p.m.