03/08/11 — Opinion: Lack of non-conference games is troubling

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Opinion: Lack of non-conference games is troubling

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 8, 2011 1:47 PM

There are few motivators quite like urgency. The high school baseball season is just a week old and teams in the News-Argus readership area begin conference play today, making preparation become more important.

A year ago, the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference didn't start league play until the fourth week of March. With the exception of Southern Wayne, the ECC begins conference play today.

The loss of two weeks at the beginning of the season to develop team chemistry, mold a pitching staff and find an identity offensively leaves the feeling-out process lingering into the start of conference play. The early-season balancing act can be quite a task with non-conference opponents sprinkled in between league games.

"Anytime you can take another step forward and gain a little bit of confidence is good," said Southern Wayne head coach Trae McKee. "We've still got to put some pieces together for sure like everybody else. We were so young last year and we didn't lose anybody.

"I feel like as long as we can stay moving forward and keep getting better every day that's the biggest thing."

Gone are the veteran, talented pitchers that have filled ECC rosters for the past few seasons. No longer do Josh Frederick, Eric DuBose, John Wooten, Adron Hollowell and others roam the mounds of the ECC. A mix of seasoned and young hurlers have stepped in the league's pitching spotlight.

Eastern Wayne has its combo of junior Zack Mozingo and senior Logan Wicks. Aycock (2-1) has a blend of youth and experience with sophomore Adam Pate, junior Bryant Stafford, and seniors Derek Limbaugh and Aaron Champion. Southern Wayne (1-1) counters with its tandem of sophomore Will Raynor and senior Will Broadwell.

"We've got some arms up here and we're going to have to have some arms with the games we play," said Aycock head coach Charles Davis. "We're still moving some things around. You've just got to keep working hard in practice. I'm probably going to have to be a little patient with them."

South Johnston brings back senior right-handers Logan Jernigan and Casey Lee. Juniors Jimmie Massengill, Trey Thompson and Colby Johnson also return. Triton has three senior pitchers on its roster -- Jorge Hernandez, Andrew Baker and W.A. Myatt; and several underclassmen.

League newcomer Cleveland remains one of the conference's biggest unknowns as it begins its first season of varsity baseball.