03/01/13 — BASEBALL TAB -- Golden Falcons will rely on a small senior class

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BASEBALL TAB -- Golden Falcons will rely on a small senior class

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 1, 2013 1:47 PM

Charles B. Aycock's run to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A state championship series last season almost didn't happen.

A loss to South Johnston in the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference tournament nearly derailed the Golden Falcons' playoff hopes. Aycock slipped into the state playoffs and made the most of its opportunity by reaching the state finals before losing to Weddington.

With just four seniors back off that state runner-up team and a roster stocked full of promising underclassmen, the Golden Falcons are eager to build on last year's postseason success.

"Last season proves that anything can happen at any given moment," Aycock head coach Charles Davis said. "Hopefully the guys who are back from last year and our JV kids saw that you can get on a roll and anything can happen."

The Golden Falcons finished 21-11 in 2012 and return University of North Carolina signee Adam Pate. Pate hit a team-high .364 last season and also led Aycock in hits (36), runs scored (32) and at-bats (99).

Davis anticipates using Pate on the mound and at a number of different positions defensively while leaning heavily on Pate's leadership abilities.

"Having Adam Pate on your team is going to make you better," Davis said. "He's just a natural leader and he leads more by example than by his words. Position wise he may be all over the field for us and he can do it. He brings so much to our team with his leadership and work ethic."

Collectively the Golden Falcons recorded an uncharacteristic .251 batting average a year ago with just eight home runs and 155 runs scored in 829 at-bats.

The majority of Aycock's off-season and pre-season workouts have been dedicated to improving at the plate.

"We did not have a good year offensively last year," Davis said. "We're not going to be a power-hitting team, but I think with the new bats that can be said about a lot of teams. We're mainly concentrating on hitting the ball in the gaps and hitting line drives.

"We have a fair amount of team speed and being an old-natured coach I like that. It brings more strategy back into the game."

The Golden Falcons' strength should be in its pitching staff that boasts a blend of veteran and young, talented arms.

Davis has the luxury of multiple right- and left-handed arms which could pay dividends in dictating matchups in the late innings of critical ECC showdowns. Pate and Ryan Grant provide seasoned right-handed arms and southpaws Greg Johnson and Bobby Hampton gained valuable experience on the Junior American Legion level.

Junior right-hander Logan Runyon was the ace of Aycock's junior varsity team last season.

Early-season tests against Wilson Hunt and Greenville Rose should help prepare the Golden Falcons for ECC play. Aycock begins the conference portion of its schedule March 5 at Triton.

"We're going to be tested early," Davis said. "Hopefully we can keep our head above water. We're going to make some mistakes early on and our conference is going to be very tough. It should be an interesting year."