05/27/08 — Inexperienced Legion pitching staff must mature

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Inexperienced Legion pitching staff must mature

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 27, 2008 3:42 PM

DUDLEY -- Win in a different way.

Hope a young pitching staff grows up fast.

That's the approach sixth-year Wayne County Post 11 baseball coach Brad Reaves is taking for this summer. Four of the team's top seven hitters return, but just 11 percent of the team's pitching staff remained intact.

Two Division I starters and JUCO standout T.J. Hinson, the 2007 Area I player of the year, are gone off last year's state runner-up squad. The departures leave Reaves with his thinnest and least-experienced group of hurlers.

"They're pretty good pitchers, but they just don't have any experience at this level," said Reaves. "I think we've got arms that can keep us in games, but the guys will have to learn to pitch at this level and let us play defense behind them.

"There is no power arm. We can't afford for them to go out with the mentality that they're going to throw six, eight, 10 pitches and get out of the inning."

The newcomers are Eastern Wayne's Adron Hollowell, Southern Wayne's Michael Douglas and Charles B. Aycock's tandem of Jesse Randolph and Eric DuBose. All have seen action in Post 11's first two games against Area I West members Durham and Benson.

"I saw a lot of nerves against Durham," said Reaves. "I thought Adron thew it well and showed no intimidation. Taylor Allen, in the second game (against Benson), did exactly what he was supposed to do. He threw strikes and let us play with it.

"A couple of times we didn't play it well behind him."

Taylor, from Rosewood, threw just seven-plus innings a year ago.

Also back in the bullpen are John Wooten, Jay Rose and Nolan Lancaster. The trio combined to throw 22-plus innings last summer.

"If our starters can get us five innings and keep other teams to four or five runs, we'll be okay," said Reaves. "We're teaching them 'pitch to contact' and let us play defense behind them."

"There is going to be a learning curve there. They're here to get better and I've got confidence in them that they will."

At the plate

Wayne County proved hitting should be its strength during its first two games of 2008. Post 11 has logged a total of 21 runs and gotten consistent hitting performances from its returnees.

Infielder Walker Gourley emerged the team leader last season in at-bats (147), hits (58), extra-base hits (14), RBI (33) and hitting percentage (.395). Gourley, who has verbally committed to East Carolina, finished a perfect 17-of-17 in stolen-base attempts.

Wooten recorded 40 hits, 32 RBI and slugged two home runs in 2007.

Lancaster batted above .300 with 27 hits and 18 RBI in 87 official at-bats. Rose, second-year starter Alex Casey and Thomas Pilkington each hit higher than .225. Pilkington is currently in Tennessee with Lenoir Community College, which is participating in the NJCAA Division II College World Series.

"We can hit a little bit and I think that's going to be our strength," said Reaves, whose career record is 104-42. "We may be a better hitting team this year than last year. And we should be just as good defensively.

"We do have some injuries and people out of place right now."

Area I East

Then there were 10.

The offseason losses of programs at Beaufort and Snow Hill drastically changed schedules this summer. Now, each team has just eight division games in North and South Division play.

"Every one of them is very, very important," said Reaves.

Wayne County opens South Division play at home Friday against Pitt County 160. The teams split last year's series with each winning on their home diamond.

"It's going to be tight and I think anybody can win it," said Reaves. "There is no clear-cut favorite and it will be the most competitive it's ever been. I can't call it a surprise with whoever wins it."

New Bern and Edenton won the South and North Division titles, respectively, in 2007.