03/01/13 — BASEBALL TAB -- Whitfield stressing good, solid fundamentals

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BASEBALL TAB -- Whitfield stressing good, solid fundamentals

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 1, 2013 1:47 PM

Spring Creek has several battles to fight this baseball season. Human nature will not be one of them.

Coming off one of the most-successful seasons in school history, the Gators must focus on the obstacles at hand and not fall prey to living on past accomplishments.

"We have a lot of work to do if we are going to be successful this year," Spring Creek head coach Heath Whitfield said. "I think the guys that are here every day understand that and I think that they accept that challenge."

Spring Creek emerged as one of the best teams in Carolina 1-A Conference play in 2012 and finished 16-9 overall record. The Gators ended up second in league play with an 8-2 mark.

Whitfield's team advanced to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A state playoffs before losing to perennial power Dixon.

The bad news for Spring Creek baseball followers is that a big part of that team has graduated. Duane Gurganus and Corey Howell, the Gators' top two arms from a year ago, are no longer available. Chris Nichols and Zach Harrell, two of the team's biggest bats, are also gone.

"That group of kids, from the time they were freshman until they were seniors, had an excellent record," Whitfield said. "We made it to the second round of the state playoffs each season and were competitive in the conference."

On the bright side, the Gators have a group of young players ready to step in.

Third baseman Tre Hammonds emerged as a defensive stalwart and a base-stealing threat as a freshman in 2012. Alan Coor and Chad Spurgeon spent time on the infield and on the pitcher's mound last season, and will be counted on to make plays as they enter their sophomore seasons.

"Tre got a chance to step in at third last year when another guy went down and he hasn't given the spot up yet," Whitfield said. "Chad and Alan are both versatile guys that can pitch or play in the middle of the infield so we are hoping for big things from them."

Two of Spring Creek's starters share a bond bigger than baseball.

Brothers Luke and Logan Miller each contributed to the Gators' success last season. Luke, a senior, will likely man one of the outfield positions this spring. Logan, a sophomore, can fill a variety of roles, but will definitely be in the pitching rotation.

"Both Luke and Logan played important innings for us last season," Whitfield said. "They both have baseball talent and they both understand what it takes to win games. They really hustle and get after it."

Spring Creek opened regular-season play Thursday against Greene Central. The Gators begin conference play March 19 against Princeton.

"When you look at the league, the team that stands out is Ayden-Grifton," Whitfield said. "They won the conference last year and they have a lot of good players coming back. With that said, I think we have a chance to be in the mix.

"The key is going to be throwing strikes and playing solid defense. It always is."