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When hard work meets intelligence and talent, coaches can end up with a player like Cole Sizemore.

The Carterville senior has been the team’s catcher for three years, and he’s enjoying another good season this time around.

Sizemore is batting .420 with 10 RBIs for the 5-3 Lions.

“I like going up with the mentality that I’m going to hit the ball hard somewhere,” Sizemore said. “I like attacking the first-pitch fastball, if I get one. The first five or six games I saw a lot of offspeed pitches. I think that helped me stay on the ball a little bit better. That kind of locked me in some. Now that I’m getting more fastballs, I’ve been attacking that, and it has worked out pretty well for me.”

Playing the position of catcher is obviously physically demanding, which Sizemore had handled well along with the mental part of it. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a really good hitter, too.

“Cole has always been a hard-nosed kid, and he caught for me in junior high,” said Carterville coach Bobby Jackson. “I brought him up his sophomore year and started playing him. We had an injury to our catcher. He did so well that our original catcher played a different position when he got back.”

Jackson believes Sizemore’s best attributes are how well he handles pitchers and especially his ability to not let much get by him.

“I’ve been in this game for 26 years and had a lot of nice players,” Jackson said. “What Cole does very well behind the plate is blocking pitches. He is so great at that. He’s one of the best I’ve seen in 26 years of baseball doing that.”

Getting thrown into the fire as a young sophomore turned out to be a benefit for Sizemore, who excels in all areas of the game these days.

“I’ve been catching for a quite a while now, and I work with our pitchers a lot,” Sizemore said. “It helps catching them live in practice. I’ve seen a lot of pitching at the varsity level for three years now. For the past few years, we’ve had a deep core of pitching. It’s been pretty good.”

The Lions started the season in great shape in the SIRR Mississippi Division. The team defeated Nashville and was sitting a 3-0, but dropped the past two games to Pinckneyville and Du Quoin.

“I think we’ve got a young core that comes out ready to play,” Sizemore said. “The last two games probably not so much, but definitely for most of the first half of the season. I don’t think we’ve come to the field with energy for the past few games. I don’t think we were ready to play. We get down and have trouble fighting back sometimes.”

Last season as a junior, Sizemore batted cleanup, but was moved into the three spot during the year, which is where he remains.

“I’m pretty comfortable there now,” Sizemore said. “I consider myself the leader of this team. I feel like it’s my responsibility as a senior to come out and produce. I want to help these guys get what they deserve, and that’s to win. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

College programs have shown interest in Sizemore, and he hopes to play at the next level.

“He doesn’t get real high or low, and he’s not a vocal leader,” Jackson said. “But he comes to practice every day and shows our kids how to practice and prepare and work. Guys like Cole don’t come along very often. I just hope his career can continue, and I think it will. He is a wonderful student-athlete. He is an old school baseball player, which is refreshing for a coach like me.”

scott.mees@thesouthern.com

618-351-5086

On Twitter: @SIPrepSports

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Sports reporter

Scott Mees is a sports reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering prep sports.

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