“It does feel like the season should be here,” he said when asked if he felt it had arrived quickly. “We’ve done a lot of work around the facility. I’m ready to start playing games.
“I know the kids are. We’ve had a couple of god weeks of preparation and we had a good fall. We’ve got a good group of kids that work hard.”
Crestview will play this year in District 2-6A with Niceville, Mosely and Tallahassee schools Chiles and Leon.
Gillis expects every game to be a battle.
“Moseley’s two years off of being a state champion plus they got they’ve got a pitcher that’s signed early with Florida State,” he said. “Chiles is always good. They were ranked first and second in the state last year.
“Leon won eighteen games last year as well. Niceville is still Niceville, they’re good.”
Crestview should be pretty good as well. The Bulldogs boast veteran pitchers in senior Brayden Ruschmeier and junior Anthony St. Vincent.
“I think we’ve got some very good arms that have some experience,” Gillis said. “Brayden Ruschmeier and Anthony St. Vincent have been in the fire a lot.
“They’ve pitched in some big games so they are kind of used to the pressure.”
Gillis thinks the Bulldogs will swing the bats pretty good this year.
“We’ve probably got 12 kids that can swing the bat really well,” he said. “Obviously there is only room for 10 in the lineup and nine hitters (with one player on playing in the field). There will be some good players not hitting.
“You’ve just got to go with maybe the hot hand. If guys are swinging it well, you get them in there (the lineup). There will be times when some good players are not hitting.”
Javin Shoemake might be the best returning hitter for the Bulldogs. As a junior, the catcher hit in the four hole. Gillis is considering having him bat leadoff as the guys in the top of the order in 2022 graduated.
“Javin Shoemake was really good for us last year,” Gillis said. “I’m trying to figure out where to hit him in the lineup. He may lead off.
“He may bat second. We are just going to have to wait and see.”
Gillis believes the team will be good defensively. Once again, the situation facing him is finding key replacements in the middle of the diamond at second base, shortstop and center field.
“I think we’ve got some guys that are capable, but they haven’t been in a varsity situation yet,” Gillis said of the players competing for those positions up the middle.
“I think we got about four or five guys that can run a little bit with some good instincts. So, we got some maybe some guys could steal some bases.”
The time has come for a new set of players to fill the holes left by graduation. Gillis knows practice doesn’t always make perfect when the lights shine on the diamond.
“We talked about that a lot (playing when it counts),” he said. “We got some guys can that can really whack it around in that cage. We we get out here between the lines when it counts, are they going to be able to do the same thing?
“Let’s hope so.”