03/17/04 — Prep baseball previews

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Prep baseball previews

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on March 17, 2004 1:57 PM


Coach -- Danny Merritt, third season

Last year -- 4-17, won a pair of forfeited doubleheaders

Gone -- Four seniors from last season, three others did not return

Back -- Senior Curtis Mozingo; junior Eugene Norman and sophomore Monquavius Edwards

Outlook -- The slow and steady climb to respectablilty continues at Goldsboro. Merritt has eight freshmen, and six that will see significant playing time. Those six freshmen played in Babe Ruth 14-15-year old ball this past summer and benefitted from the exposure to the game at that level. Devon Hunt joined the team and should make himself a spot in left field although he has never played before. Merritt is pleased with the team's enthusiasm and work ethic. Unlike last season, when Goldsboro never seemed to improve, Merritt hopes this year's team will progress and get better through the season.

North Duplin

Coach -- Robbie Futch, first season

Last year -- 3-15

Gone -- Jim Wells has transferred to Harrells Christian Academy; Brandon Sutton has graduated

Back -- Matt Braswell, Brad Lloyd, Travis Dubois, Timmy Evans

New -- Ryan Tillman, Sterling Grice

Outlook -- Futch, a former standout player for James Kenan who spent five years as an assistant varsity coach and a JV coach for the Tigers, gets his first varsity head coaching position. His father, Sherman Futch, was a longtime girls basketball and softball coach at Kenan until his death last fall. Futch inherits a team that had a lot of tough breaks last season, and did not respond well becasue of their youth and inexperience. "On the good side of that, they've seen what can happen if you let games get away from you and lose your composure," he said. "They've seen the bad, and they are very hungry to win. I think that there has been a lot of growing done between last year and this year." Lloyd and Braswell lead the young pitching staff. Futch has noved some people around in the lineup and the defense, and he has been pleased with his team's response to it. "All of these guys want to do whatever it takes for the betterment of the team and to get a win," he said. Futch is very familiar with Carolina 1-A Conference -- "Ayden-Grifton is probably the preseason favorite, and a perennial power," he said. "Spring Creek and Farmville should be pretty darn good. Rosewood, North Johnston, and Princeton are always solid, tough teams to play. To be quite honest, I'd be surprised to see a team in this conference with an overall losing record at the end of the year. Depending on how we gel, we should be running for one of the three playoff seeds."


Coach -- Bruce Proctor, fifth season

Last season -- 7-13, lost play-in game against Rosewood

Gone -- Clay Foxworth, Andy Greever and Jonathan Gatewood are all playing college ball

Back -- Brandon Pate, Dustin Myers

Outlook -- it seems to be a rebuilding year for Princeton as the Bulldogs are short in experienced pitching and the offense is something Proctor hopes will improve as the season goes on. Proctor sees the conference as strong, with Famrville Central, Rosewood, Ayden-Grifton and North Johnston battling for the playoff spots.

North Johnston

Coach -- Tim Jones, third season

Last season -- 6-12

Gone -- Bryan Bagwell, Scott Stevens and Steven Vick are among the graduated

Back -- Adam Verrill, Brad Holloman, matt narron and Kris Lutz

Outlook -- The Panthers have more pitching depth this season, and Jones feels the level of talent has gone up in that department. He hopes to improve on team defense.

Charles B. Aycock

Coach -- Charles Davis, 14th season

Last year -- 21-4, lost in team's second staight eastern 3-A regional finals appearance

Gone -- Rob Wooten, Dustin Sasser, Brian Percise, Philip Pennington, Thomas Presley, Juwon Fuller, Chris Rook, Matt Hines and Matt Spence all graduated; Dustin Smith is playing golf

Back -- Phillip Cunningham, Josh Pate, Matthew Waddell, Josh Kirby, Jarrod Gouty and Nik Pappas

Outlook -- Only in Pikeville can a team lose two Division I pitchers to graduation and call the rest of the staff a team strength. But Phillip Cunningham is ready to continue a line of outstanding Falcon pitchers. There are several promising arms behind Cunninghan, who got some good starts between Dustin Sasser and Rob Wooten last season and is the staff ace. Davis lists team unity and team speed as a strength for his team ,while he is concerned about his team growing up quickly and swinging the bats well. The conference race is wide open -- "everyone except Goldsboro has quality pitching. It all depends on the pitching matchps in conference play."

Greene Central

Coach -- Russell Brann, fourth season

Last year -- 14-11, lost to Randleman in first round of playoffs

Gone -- Blake Herring, C.G. Hardy, St. Paul Edwards, Travis Smith, Kyle Carraway and Jeffrey Radford all gradauted

Back -- Jordy Davis, Jared Williamson, Matthew Tyndall, Joseph Wade, Travis Rouse

Outlook -- The Rams lost a lot of senior leadership and will look to gel a bit before the conference race begins. Brann is expecting defense to be a strength and said the hitting will be a strength once the Rams have swung the bats a little. The contenders in the Eastern Plains Conference are expected to be North Pitt, SouthWest Edgecombe, South Lenoir and North Lenoir -- and "we think we can fit into the mix by conference time," said Brann.

Eastern Wayne

Coach -- Jabo Fulghum, 12th season

Last year -- 14-10, 11-3 in conference, lost in first round of playoffs in eight innings

Gone -- Graham Wooten, Mike Macanas, Brett Butts, Mike Oglesby and Todd MacCoy all graduatred; Matt Hemenway is recovering from injury and should be back by mid-season.

Back -- Jesse Lancaster, Airlon Vinson, Trey Johnson, Garrett Sutton

Outlook -- The Warriors are hurting for pitching with Hemenway recovering from an arm problem. But Lancaster is perhaps the most versatile player in the area, a strong all-conference candidate at pitcher and in the infield. Vinson was promising at first base last season and pitched well and Johnson will get an expanded role. Fulghum sees a league with eight teams that has at least one quality pitcher, and several teams with two. "It will be a dogfight every day in conference play," he said. "We'll be young in spots, but we have some good quality returning starters."

Spring Creek

Coach -- Roger May, third season

Last year -- 11-12

Gone -- four players off last year's squad have graduated

Back -- Jes Snyder, Randy Amos, Jed Potter, Blake Thompson, Daniel Thompson, Michael Sigmon

Outlook -- May has something this season he has not had in years past -- experiencd upperclassmen. Snyder, Potter and all the other returning players are capable of strong games, and May is emphasising consistency and the ability to do all the little things right every time out. He sees Farnville Central as the team to beat, with Ayden-Grifton a straditional power. Rosewood has a lot of youngh players that can compete and Princeton and North Duplin "can't be taken for granted," said May.

Southern Wayne

Coach --Trae McKee, third season

Last year -- 14-12, lost to Manteo in first round of playoffs

Gone -- Joel Rose and Erik Lovett are graduated

Back -- Wayne Clemens, Chris Pearsall, Matt Graham, Nathan Fail, Josh Narron, Matthew Holloman, Auatin Hood, David Combs

Outlook -- Team strengths should be experience with seven starters coming back. Offensively, the Saints are physically stronger than we were last year. "I think the keys will be pitching and defense. We feel like we are going to throw strikes and not strike a lot of people out, so and defense will be one of our big keys. I think it's anybody's conference this year. Everybody has one or two guys who can go out and beat you on any given night. I think this is one of the toughest 3-A Conference's in the state. Every Tuesday and Friday, you face a quality opponent," McKee said.


Coach --Scott Adams, first season

Last year -- lost in second round of playoffs

Gone -- Six seniors have graduated

Back -- Michael Render, Taylor Carr, Josh Allen, Thad Hill, Nick Becton, Dustin Overman

Outlook -- "As always, Ayden-Grifton and Farmville Central will be tough. We have a fine group of players and we expect to do well in our conference and hopefully make a good long run in the playoffs. Like any other team, we need to hit the ball and our pitchers must do the job when called upon."

North Lenoir

Coach --Jim Montaguue, 14th season

Last year -- 12-11

Gone -- Six players have graduated

Back -- Shane Harris, Jacob Alphin

Outlook -- Montague has six pitchers at his disposal this season, but many of the players are young and inexperienced. the chief contenders in the league will be South Lenoir and SouthWest Edgecombe, but Montague sees the Hawks as being right in the middle of the pack.

Did not report -- North Johnston, Wayne Country Day, Wayne Christian, Faith Christian