Princeton seniors want nothing less than state crown
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 31, 2007 1:48 PM
PRINCETON — Princeton’s senior class is happy to return to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A baseball championship series.
Is the group satisfied?
“My freshman year we heard about how good South Stokes was and we were the underdog,” said center fielder Colin Parker, one of nine seniors on the team. “This year, I think we’re the favorites.”
Princeton (23-7 overall) begins its title quest Friday against Western champion East Surry (25-8) on the Five County Stadium diamond. Game 1 in the best-of-three series is at 5 p.m.
The two meet again Saturday at 11 a.m. and a third game, if necessary, will be played later in the day.
“I’ve always heard you win with seniors and with us having nine seniors, I hope that’s the case,” said Dawgs head coach Bruce Proctor. “It’s exciting for me and hopefully rewarding for these kids, too.
“This has been their goal to get back ever since we went there in ’04.”
Princeton is making its fifth appearance in the finals. The Dawgs won state championships in 1992 and ’94, and emerged the runners-up in ’93.
East Surry, the Northwest Conference champion, advanced to the finals for the first time since 1982. The Cardinals lost to East Bladen in the 3-A series that year.
Proctor scouted East Surry in its Western regional series with Cherryville. The Cardinals boast the NWC player of the year, pitcher Jordan Jessup. The right-hander has a sparkling 0.81 earned run average with 141 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 86-plus innings.
Jordan is 11-1 on the mound.
“They’re a good, solid, fundamentally-sound baseball team,” said Proctor. “They weren’t flashy, but they did the little things right.
“They’ve obviously done everything right to get this far along (in the playoffs).”
East Surry, according to Proctor, likes to pressure opposing defenses with the bunt game. However, the Cardinals proved they can hit the long ball and a two-run homer proved beneficial in Game 2 against Cherryville.
Matching up, says Proctor, will be the key.
Princeton is equally talented in pitching. Parker and Chris Hinton have combined for nearly 200-plus innings and each owns an ERA around the 3.00 mark.
Senior Dustin Pate recently returned to the mound and earned his first decision in the Eastern regional finals against Camden County.
“Pitching has always been a constant at Princeton thanks to Justin Willoughby,” said Proctor. “I give him all the credit in the world. He is what makes Princeton baseball go. We’ve been kind of spoiled with that.
“He’s got four guys who are quality pitchers. A couple of guys haven’t gotten that many innings, but they do a good job if we have to go to them.”
The Dawgs, still ranked No. 8 in the ImpactBaseball.com poll, aren’t too bad offensively. Proctor’s team has slugged 19 home runs and is hitting a collective .324.
Senior catcher Daniel Gerrell is hitting at .398 clip with Parker not too far behind at .396. Ryan Daughtry and Andrew Cobb are close to .350. The quartet has combined for eight home runs.
“Offensively, we have been productive this year,” said Proctor. “And it’s not been just one guy. Up and down the lineup, different kids are coming through in big situations for us at different times.”
Proctor and the four seniors off that 2004 team — Parker, Gerrell, Adam Nethercutt and Jared McLamb — hope it continues this weekend.
“We’re not going to be satisfied without winning it,” said Proctor. “We’re not just satisfied with getting back to the finals.”
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