03/03/10 — Rosewood tabbed league favorite

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Rosewood tabbed league favorite

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 3, 2010 1:47 PM

To the victor go the spoils.

Or at least the preseason accolades.

Rosewood garnered four first-place votes and is the favorite to repeat as Carolina 1-A Conference baseball regular-season champion, according to the annual preseason coaches poll.

The Eagles topped the ledger with 23 points. Archrival Princeton, which received one first-place vote, is selected to finish second with 21 points. Ayden-Grifton got one first-place vote and collected 18 points. Spring Creek (14), North Duplin (9) and Goldsboro (5) rounded out the six-team league.

Rosewood posted a 16-7 record last season and reached the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs.

"I think the teams in our league are all going to have their strengths," said Princeton head coach Bruce Proctor. "It is going to take a good effort each day to get better and compete within the conference."

The Bulldawgs will feature a senior-laden roster with seven returning letter winners. Valuable leadership and experience should come in handy as the team wades through a tough non-conference schedule that includes North Johnston and Charles B. Aycock.

"I saw what this group of seniors did during football season and I hope that it carries over to baseball," said Proctor. "We are still working with some young pitchers, but overall we have a lot of varsity experience."

Ayden-Grifton head coach Chris Ross is working with a strong defensive team that may need time to work the kinks out at the plate. Led by first baseman Blake McCarter, the Chargers are likely to be in the thick of the conference race from the onset.

Spring Creek will be one of the youngest teams in the league, but that does not mean that the Gators lack experience or talent. Head coach Heath Whitfield played a number of freshmen last season and all of those second-year players return, led by sophomore pitcher Duane Gurganus who tallied eight wins last spring.

"We have a lot of young guys, but a lot of talent, too," said Whitfield. "With only two seniors there is always a question of who is going to step up and lead the team offensively, but I think we have some guys that are capable."

North Duplin will also be taking a look at several young players in the opening weeks. But with a stable of solid pitchers there is plenty of reason for head coach Joey Keefe to be optimistic.

"This group has a lot of potential," said Keefe. "We are working on fundamentals and trying to determine who is going to fit best in each role, but we have seen a core of good live arms."

League newcomer Goldsboro will be looking to make a splash in its new surroundings and head coach E.J. Cromartie is fully aware of the level of competition that his team will see this season.

With a trio of players that have stepped up their game, Cromartie is looking forward to seeing where the Cougars stack up. Infielders Needham Core, A.J. Lane and catcher Spencer Parker have all been working to lead the Goldsboro program.

"I don't know what this year is going to hold but I do know the baseball tradition that schools like Rosewood and Princeton have," said Cromartie. "I have a group of eager young men and so far they have been very coachable and willing to learn the game at the varsity level."