02/28/08 — Reigning state champs undergo changes

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Reigning state champs undergo changes

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 28, 2008 2:20 PM

State championships come from hard work and determination.

A trio of area prep baseball coaches have been preaching that very message during preseason workouts this winter. Each coach guided his respective school to a championship last spring, and each also lost considerable talent and leadership to graduation.

What does 2008 hold for perennial public-school powers Charles B. Aycock and Princeton, and independent schools member Wayne Country Day?

The Golden Falcons open their season at home today against Wilson Fike. Coach Charles Davis lost 11 seniors to graduation including three pitchers -- Division I signees Garrett Davis and Grant Sasser, and Lenoir Community College freshman Brandon Price.

Davis said nine different players have seen time on the mound this preseason. He hopes to rework a pitching staff that was one of Aycock's major strengths last season.

Catcher Zach Wright, who has signed with East Carolina, outfielder Will Edgerton and shortstop Conner Narron are holdovers from last year's state-title squad.

"Yes, we're defending state champions and that's a totally different team," said Davis, who enters his 18th season. "Every year we're going to take everybody's best shot. We've got confidence we can compete with everybody.

"Defensively and hitting, I really feel like we'll be okay. We also run the bases aggressively."

Nine seniors departed from Princeton, which reigned supreme on the 1-A level in 2007. The Dawgs enter Friday's season opener against Union ranked No. 1 in the preseason Baseball Impact.com poll.

Seniors Michael Radford, Chris Hinton and Ryan Daughtry could go a long way in determining the Bulldogs chances to repeat. Hinton and Daughtry should see plenty of time on the mound this season, while Proctor is still searching for that third reliable arm.

"In high school you can go a long way with two pitchers, but you need more than two," Proctor said. "Someone else will have to step up and they'll all have to stay healthy."

Without his entire team seeing much time on the field together this preseason, defense is an area that Proctor admits 'makes him as concerned as he's ever been.'

Despite those concerns, Proctor remains confident his team can defend its state title.

"One of the things we put on our state championship rings was Philippians 4:13, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,'" Proctor said. "I feel like if we do things the right way we can repeat."

Wayne Country Day's state-title run surprised head coach Michael Taylor.

The Chargers earned 23 of Taylor's 55 career wins at WCDS in 2007, a turnaround Taylor credits to a familiarity shared among last season's squad.

"Last year was the second year in a row we had the same lineup," said Taylor, a graduate of C.B. Aycock. "So that team played over 50 games with each other. They were all very familiar with each other. Everybody knew what each person was going to do. This year's team is one big family and everybody knows what their role is going to be."

Replacing Travis Davis, Trent Langston, Kyle Pender and Sam Steed -- who all graduated -- could be difficult. Pender and Steed both batted .330 or better last season. Langston and Steed consistently provided quality innings when called upon.

Wayne Country Day opens its season March 7 against Waccamaw Academy, which is a rematch of last year's NCISAA semifinal. The next day, WCDS faces Lawrence, which was the 2007 runner-up.

"It's going to take a lot of hard work and determination with the guys I have out there right now," Taylor said of his team's chances to repeat. "We have the ability to do it but I don't know if we have the will and desire to do it. I don't want the guys that are playing now to be content with having a state championship.

"I'm never content. That was last year."