Coaches never quite know what they're going to get out of their teams when they take the field for the first time in a season.
They may have a hunch based on scrimmages or how certain players competed in previous seasons.
Thursday's season opener at Hanover provided a little extra mystery as New Oxford sent junior Kobe Brown to the mound for the first varsity start of his career.
But the Colonials got exactly what they expected out of Brown: a complete game in which he walked just one batter to lead New Oxford to an 8-3 win.
“I’ve been playing with most of these guys my entire life," Brown said. "I just knew they had my back through the entire thing.”
While Brown may be a new face to varsity opponents this year, he's a familiar face to his teammates and coaches. He spent most of his time with the junior varsity team last season, allowing him to improve by logging many innings without having to compete for playing time with older varsity teammates. He also pitched for New Oxford's American Legion team last summer.
“He pitched all summer for us," said New Oxford coach Scott Anderson, who also coaches the legion team. "He probably threw 25 to 30 innings over the summer. It was his first varsity start, but in some ways it wasn’t because he’s pitched with those guys.”
Brown gave up five hits, and helped himself out with two RBI singles at the plate, without showing any signs of fatigue as the game wore on.
“The humor behind every play kept me going, kept me laughing, just kept me having fun," Brown said with a smile. "When I have fun, I think I play better. And I think the whole team just feels better and plays better.”
New Oxford led 4-3 heading into the seventh inning before RBI base hits by Nathan Breighner, Zach Rudisill and Brown broke the game open. Rudisill went 3-for-3 with two walks, two RBIs and two runs scored, and freshman A.J. Baadte went 4-for-5 with two runs scored.
Brown induced a double play to end the game and put New Oxford, which went 9-11 last year, into the win column to start the season.
“He’s a great kid and he worked hard. He’s a kid who didn’t miss a 6 a.m. workout. We have some kids who didn’t miss a 6 a.m. workout, where it’s cold, it’s dark and we’re running steps and doing those sorts of things.”
For Hanover, new coach Jordan Smith saw improvement from a team that went 2-15 last season.
“I thought we played really, really, really well," the 2010 Hanover graduate said. "I talked to these guys about the process, they’ve been putting a lot of time in and we were that close today. I’m pretty happy.”
New Oxford 8, Hanover 3
NO, Kobe Brown. Han, Madison McDaniel, Kyle Krout.
SO-BB — Brown 4-1, McDaniel 2-6, Krout 0-1; W — Brown; L — McDaniel.