Published: Jun 26, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 27, 2012 12:02 PM
PITTSBORO - There may not be a busier ballfield in North Carolina this summer than the diamond at Northwood High School’s Ronald Horton Baseball Complex.
Northwood is hosting three baseball programs in June and July: a Senior Legion and Junior Legion team, and for the first time an entry in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League.
And that’s not even counting the North-North Chatham Junior Legion team that Northwood is fielding this summer. That team is run by Carrboro High School head coach Nat Tyndall and includes multiple Carrboro, Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill players.
“It’s a lot of kids and a lot of baseball, but we want to have as many players as possible getting on the field,” said Northwood High baseball head coach Rick Parks, who serves as general manager for each of the three teams.
The North Chatham CCSSL team has two high school sophomores, but it’s dominated by middle-schoolers. Most of Northwood’s sophomores and juniors play on the Junior Legion team, and rising seniors and juniors make up most of the players on the Senior Legion team, which is allowed to include players as mature as rising college sophomores.
The CCSSL team is off to as good a start as anybody. The youngest Chargers won their first three games.
Last week, Northwood CCSSL defeated Green Hope 13-11 in the first game of a twin bill on Tuesday before falling 8-6 to a high quality Fuquay-Varina team in the nightcap.
“I was very, very pleased with our kids. That was basically the Fuquay-Varina Junior varsity and we had the ability to play with them in a very close game,” said Northwood CCSSL coach Lyle Donaldson. “That’s very good.”
Donaldson helped with Northwood’s first junior program team in 2008. That team, comprising mostly Chatham County players, won the state’s Palomino League tournament in Greensboro and earned an invitation to the NABF 17U World Series, ending up in fifth place and with a 24-6 record.
Since then, the Northwood-based teams have found a home in American Legion ball, which can be highly selective. Entry into the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League opens up opportunities for many more players.
“The developmental league is giving a lot of young players a chance to get onto the field,” Donaldson said. “We’re teaching them the exact same things that the Senior Legion and Junior Legion players are getting. All of these teams are run just like the high school team – the same signs, the same bunts, the same strategy.”
Donaldson cited Connor Lienbach and Carver Meyer of the Northwood’s class of 2016 as two excellent examples of players who improved so rapidly in the CCSSL that they seemed almost ready for high school.
“Right now, we are breeding the young players who one day will be playing for Coach Parks,” he said.
Blaine Sturdivent, who played at Northwood and now coaches alongside Donaldson, said he’s been impressed with the maturity of the CCSSL players.
“You ask a player to do something, and it’s done. No complaining. They all are developing very rapidly,” Sturdivent said.
“They have well exceeded my expectations. Based on the first games, I am very optimistic. All of them are playing absolutely fantastic baseball, and they are learning a lot.”