High School Baseball:
Published: Mar 03, 2013 11:05 AM
Modified: Mar 03, 2013 11:06 AM
CARRBORO - If East Chapel Hill’s pitching develops as quickly as its hitting, then the Wildcats should figure on being a major force in PAC-6 4A baseball this spring.
The weather was variable for the Wildcats’ unseasonable opener Thursday afternoon at Carrboro High School, from gray and chilly to cloudy and downright cold as the sun set behind the pines.
But East Chapel Hill’s bats seemed warmed up and ready to go, tagging two Carrboro pitchers for 18 hits in a 12-1 Wildcat win shortened to five innings by the NCHSAA’s 10-run rule.
“It was a good start, better than the way we started last year,” coach Phil Woodell said. He was remembering that a 6-5 Carrboro win last year at Wildcat Field was the second of three losses in the first four games for East.
Eight different Wildcats began their 2013 season with a hit. Four of them – Josh Baldwin (3-3), Jamari Burke (3-4), Grant Neal (3-4) and Connor Stough (3-4) – recorded three hits with at least one double.
“The whole team is really ready to get going,” Burk said. “We’re eager this year.”
Burk and Grant each went 3-for-4. Grant had a great season-opener by hitting two doubles into center field for four runs batted in; Burk batted in two runs.
“We swung the bats pretty well today,” Woodell said as his players gathered their equipment for the brief bus ride home. “It’s a good way to start.”
Woodell anticipates East will have good depth in its pitching staff, even if “we don’t have anybody who’s solidified an ace position. But we’ve got multiple guys who can throw strikes.”
Junior John Page started and pitched four innings for the win, striking out two batters and walking none, although he hit three Jaguars. Sophomore Bennett Byerly closed out the game with one inning pitched; he gave up two walks and a single that allowed Carrboro to load the bases, but he then struck out the last two batters to end the game.
“It was cold out there,” Burk observed. “It warmed up a little at the end of the game, but it was cold.”
“It was cold for both teams,” said Carrboro coach Nat Tyndall pointed out, noting his Jaguars’ three hits and three errors.
Tyndall thought his team’s youth and lack of experience had more to do with their slow start than the weather.
With just 22 players from which to construct a varsity and junior varsity, and with two regulars missing because of off-season injuries, Carrboro had several players at unfamiliar positions.
“We’re weak in some areas, and we’re still young,” Tyndall said. “By the time the year is over, I think we’re going to have some pretty good pitching, and some of the younger kids are going to develop.”
Carrboro has just three seniors on its active roster — and one of those is a transfer still new to the school. Outfielder Stewart Powell and outfielder Marc Schwartz, who started on the mound Thursday, are both seniors. Seth Andres, transferred from nearby Northwood for his senior year, could end up being one the Jaguars’ best pitchers, Tyndall said.
The Jaguars’ start has been hampered by the absence of two regulars from last year’s playoff team; shortstop Calvin Wagner is recuperating from a back injury, while Jonah Mendys, a backup quarterback on Carrboro’s 15-1 football team, is still recovering from the fall season.
East Chapel Hill, which won its first PAC-6 baseball championship in 2012, likewise has just three seniors on its roster, but most of its underclassmen – such as Baldwin, Page and Byerly – are returning letter-winners. The Wildcats’ two freshmen – Sean Moore and Connor Stough – are talented, travel-club veterans, and both contributed RBI hits Thursday.
“We had some young guys out there today who played well,” Woodell said. “But there’s a lot of stuff to work on. We’re still working on moving guys around to the right positions. It’s not a finished thing at all.”