05/07/10 — Chargers, Eagles start title bid today

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Chargers, Eagles start title bid today

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 7, 2010 1:46 PM

Wipe the slate clean.

The new season starts today when county rivals Wayne Country Day and Wayne Christian launch their respective journeys for a N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A baseball state championship.

The second-seeded Chargers (14-7 overall) play host to Pungo Christian Academy, which was the next-to-last selection in the 16-team field. The fourth-seeded Eagles, meanwhile, entertain 13th-seeded Ahoskie Ridgecroft.

First pitch is 4:30 p.m. for both games.

"I know that Pungo has not been in the playoffs for a while, so I know they are excited and they will be ready to play on Friday," said WCDS head coach Michael Taylor. "I told the guys that everyone is now 0-0 on the year and anything is possible in the playoffs."

Wayne Country Day prevailed in 10 of its final 12 regular-season outings, and captured the automatic bid from the Coastal Plains Independent Conference. It was the Chargers' first league championship since 2007 and fourth overall in program history.

Sophomore catcher Hil Tanner is batting a crisp .450 and shares the team's RBI lead (21) with freshman infielder Dare Uzzell. Sophomore Cole Davis is hitting at a .418 clip and is the team leader with 28 hits.

Cameron Ford, one of four seniors, ranks among the team leaders in several categories. However, he's proven his value on the mound -- a 6-2 record with a 3.40 earned run average. The right-hander has recorded 41 strikeouts and allowed 27 earned runs in 55-plus innings.

Overall, Wayne Country Day has eight players who hit .300 or higher and the team averages 8.3 runs an outing.

"There have been so many guys on the team who have stepped up down the stretch," said Taylor. "All 11 guys on the team have contributed to the success that we have had this year."

Wayne Christian (11-9) overcame a midseason slump and seized its sixth consecutive Carolina Christian Conference tournament title. The Eagles won seven of their last eight games with the only loss occurring against 2-A member Fayetteville Christian.

The Eagles are hosting a first-round game for the sixth straight year.

"We know very little about our opponent," said second-year Wayne Christian head coach Greg Johnson. "We know, of course, we must play our game in order to advance, regardless of who we play. Our defense has to be our strength in winning and moving on.

"We are not nearly as strong offensively as last year. We must play strong defense and do the little things in order to win."

Stephen Gallagher leads the Eagles' offense with a .533 average and 32 hits. Travis Thomas is batting .422 and leads the team in runs scored (28), while Gregory Johnson has a .385 average.

Luke Howell, the MVP of the season-ending CCC tournament, and Johnson each have four pitching decisions. Chandler Harrell is next with three. Johnson, a freshman southpaw, will get the start today against Ridgecroft.

"Our pitching is probably one of the key areas that we have continued to build on since last year," said coach Johnson. "Luke, Gregory and Chandler have most of our wins, and Stephen has been our best reliever.

"All of our guys have done extremely well on the mound, working their pitches and hitting their spots."