03/09/12 — Spring Creek baseball preview

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Spring Creek baseball preview

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 9, 2012 1:48 PM

A teachable group, a mix of seasoned veterans and enthusiastic underclassmen, Spring Creek has given head coach Heath Whitfield plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

The Gators have shown plenty of promise during preseason practices as four returning seniors have blended well with a handful of underclassmen. Seniors Duane Gurganus, Zack Harrell, Corey Howell and Chris Nichols return to a team that went 13-12 a year ago and reached the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A state playoffs.

"I really, really like my team," Whitfield said. "Their baseball IQ is very high. Most of these kids have played since they could walk and they know the game very well. Having four returning seniors gives us a big boost and I have four freshmen who should be starting a lot.

"This is the best group I've been associated with and when you like the people you're working with that makes it a lot better."

Gurganus, Harrell and Howell lead a pitching staff capable of keeping Spring Creek in plenty of ballgames. Left-handed brothers Luke and Logan Miller have impressed Whitfield early on.

"Luke and Logan have both looked good and they throw strikes," Whitfield said. "With Duane, we know he's going to do a good job no matter where we put him. He's been our go-to guy the last three years and his experience is something you just can't replace."

Freshmen Allen Coor, Tre Hammonds, Chad Spurgeon and Luke Miller are all expected to contribute. Spurgeon and Coor both swung the bat well in the Gators' scrimmages.

The mandated switch to BBCOR bats has forced coaches to focus more on situational baseball and moving runners over rather than relying on home runs or extra-base hits. Whitfield anticipates having to take advantage of opportunities to put runners in motion on the base paths and using his team's smaller size to its advantage when necessary.

"The new bats are going to make a big, big difference," Whitfield said. "We are smaller size-wise than a lot of teams. I feel like speed and bunting runners over is going to be a big part of our game."

Spring Creek compiled a 7-3 record in Carolina 1-A Conference play last season and five of its 10 conference games were decided by three runs or fewer. Whitfield is hoping the experience gained in tight ballgames a year ago pays off.

"We found a way to win a lot of close games," Whitfield said. "It always seemed like it came down to the toward the end of a lot of those games. The seniors we have this year have played so much baseball. We have confidence that when it comes down to the end they feel like they are going to get it done and not hoping they are going to get it done."