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Tunstall baseball picked to win Piedmont District ... again
Trojans start 2013 season unbeaten in search of 11th straight PD regular season title
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
By DOUG POWELL - Bulletin Sports Writer
The 2013 Piedmont District baseball season is already underway and once again the favorite to win the league is Tunstall. After winning last year's regular season for the tenth straight time, Tunstall was upset in the PD championship game by Bassett in a game that saw the power go out and was later called early, giving the Bengals the victory.
The Trojans and Bengals will face some improved competition this season, however, as the other area squads are young but expect to be dangerous.
Coach: Barry Shelton
2012 Record: 19-5 overall, 8-0 Piedmont District. (PD regular season Champs).
Returning Starters: 8
Last season, Tunstall captured their 27th Piedmont District regular season title, but fell short in the PD Tournament falling to Bassett, 10-6 in a game that was called due to a power outage.
Tunstall and Bassett are favorites to top the standings again and Tunstall head coach Barry Shelton knows how tough the district will be.
“We feel Bassett has a strong team,” Shelton said. “...We feel it's going to be very competitive in the district.”
Tunstall's team features familiar faces. The Trojans only lost one starter from last year's team and return PD Player of the Year Luke Simpson. Simpson went 12-0 last season and has already signed to pitch for Longwood when he graduates.
Joining the standout pitcher are three other seniors, Hunter Ashworth, Daymon Totherow, and Evan Huffman.
Tunstall also returns third-year starters in juniors Gavin Payne, Chris Buckner, and Brad Hylton.
“We are capable of putting some runs on the board with our lineup,” Shelton said. “I feel good about our lineup one through nine, from top to bottom.”
Tunstall’s offense looks to be in good shape and, early on, its defense has been solid. Tunstall has not committed an error in its first two games and the Trojans have won them both.
The Trojans are expected to compete once again for regular season and tournament titles and will rely on their experience to get them there.
“This is a very experienced team,” Shelton said. “I feel really good about them. If we can avoid injuries, I think we can have a really good season.”
Coach: Bill Parks
2012 Record: 14-7, 5-3 Piedmont District, (PD Tournament Champs).
Returning Starters: 5
The Bassett Bengals and head coach Bill Parks are looking to duplicate their success from last year's season which saw the Bengals upset the Tunstall Trojans in the Piedmont District Tournament and make it to the regional semifinals.
Tunstall is the favorite to win the district again, but the Bengals will be coming for them.
“Tunstall is a traditional power,” Parks said. “Everybody wants to get where Tunstall is, and has been and continues to be.”
The Bengals return pitcher Nic Keister who was an all-state selection last season and also left-handed pitcher Kemper Terry. The two players give Bassett a solid pitching duo to rotate as the season progresses.
“Usually when one’s on the mound the other one is in center field,” Parks said. “They hit one-two in our lineup and a lot is expected of them.
“They live, eat, sleep baseball.”
Of course, outside for the duo, Bassett’s pitching will still be a strongpoint for the Bengals.
“We have seven guys if I remember correctly that we feel confident going to,” Parks said. “But the main three quite obviously will be Keister, Terry, and (Trevor) Martin for us.”
The start to the season has been a little “hectic” according to Parks, who has coached the junior varsity squad in the meantime while coaching the varsity team. His players have adjusted though.
“We're making the best out of it,” Parks said. “...They've handled the situation as best they could given the circumstances and have done well with it.”
To repeat as PD tournament champions and make noise in regionals the Bengals will have to find their rhythm this season.
Parks is optimistic it will happen.
“I like our chances,” Parks said. “I'll step on the field with them against anybody.”
Coach: Terry Harris
2012 Record: 13-11 overall, 5-3 Piedmont District
Returning Starters: 2
Patrick County, as is common in high school sports, lost a lot of experience from its squad last year. Head coach Terry Harris and the Cougars will have to rely on a substantial amount of youth this spring.
“We got some good young players,” Harris said. “We got a kid named Brandon Turner who will see some time on the mound, I expect him to do well for us this season.”
Young players will have to step up, as the Cougars only return two starters from last year's team.
“We just don't have a lot of experience returning,” Harris said. “We're just working, trying to make sure we get everything we need to get covered, and hopefully we can be ready. We know we're going to go through some growing pains early, but it's all about how you finish and we're working towards that.”
Patrick County is off to a rocky start at 0-3 and if the Cougars are to improve that record they will have to rely on outfielders Chase Davis and Chase Barnes, catcher Patrick Turner, and pitcher Nick Dalton – who are the team’s key players according to Harris.
“As long as the kids continue to give us effort,” Harris said, “I think we will be competitive.”
The Cougars finished last season third in the Piedmont District and lost in the regional quarterfinals of the postseason. Scoring runs, keeping the game close, and pulling out victories is what Harris is looking for.
“We've looked pretty good at times, we've looked pretty bad at times,” Harris said. “Just the consistency and continuing to be in every game, and as long as we're in every game, we give ourselves a chance maybe to win.”
Coach: Rick Ramey
2012 Record: 5-13 overall, 2-6 Piedmont District
Returning Starters: 5
Magna Vista coach Rick Ramey hopes that his players’ versatility will help get his team over the hump and into the top of the standings in the Piedmont District.
Numerous players — including PD first-team selection Dylan Crowder — will play multiple positions for the Warriors this spring in hopes of giving the team a boost.
“Crowder, he (played catcher) for us, he pitched, and he actually played a little second-base last night,” Ramey said. “He can play anywhere. There's not a position on the field he can't play.”
One player to be on the lookout for is centerfielder DJ Pritchett — a converted shortstop — who is the leadoff man for the Warriors.
“He has tremendous speed,” Ramey said. “He's done an outstanding job at the plate of adjusting to that role. Hopefully he'll be able to hold down that leadoff spot for us.”
The Warriors return five starters from last year's team, but will also get some support from some newcomers. Holden Watkins — who played at Carlisle School last season – will play shortstop for Magna Vista, and Brandon Crowder — the younger brother of Dylan — will get some looks at pitcher.
The Warriors have some depth in the pitching department, led by Adrian Spears.
“We have five or six arms that we can go with,” Ramey said. “Some of them are young, but thus far they have pitched well.
Ramey did mention however that his team has to get its bats going to put up some runs. If the Warriors are able to do that, Ramey said they could have a solid season.
“We're looking to be more consistent throughout our entire lineup,” Ramey said. “We've got some work to do at the plate.
“We feel good about what we have, we’ve just got to work hard.”
Coach: Will Freeland
2012 Record: 2-14 overall, 0-8 Piedmont District
Returning Starters: 3
Martinsville finished 2012 in last place, leaving head coach Will Freeland searching for a new start.
“We're looking for a whole different approach,” Freeland said.
The Bulldogs will look to find that new approach with only three returning starters from last year's team — all seniors. But Freeland expects young players to step up and have a big role this season.
“We've got a good group of young kids coming up,” Freeland said. “We have a solid set of 14.”
Freeland expects to have five or six freshman and sophomores starting on this year's squad.
“Three freshmen to look for are Riggs Jordan, Taylor Chitwood, and Tanner Whitehead,” Freeland said. “We'll have some people that I feel like will step up.”
The Bulldogs had not been able to practice as much as they would like early in the season due to poor weather conditions, but when they have, they've made the most out of it.
“When we've been able to get outside, we've been effective,” Freeland said. “We've been able to use a type of pitching machine made for indoors, but we've been really scaled down by the weather.”
After a disappointing season last year and a last-place finish in the district, the Bulldogs can only improve.
And Freeland’s expecting that.
“I'm expecting a lot of improvement,” Freeland said. “Most of all I want to see a competitive team every time we step on the field. I expect success, but I don't want to handcuff myself. I will tell you this: We will be a much better team than last year.”
NOTES: Carlisle School did not have enough players this season to be eligible to play varsity baseball. However, head coach Jackie Gammons is expecting his junior varsity team to have a solid season and is working to keep them around to play varsity next year.
“That's what I'm trying to do now,” Gammons said. “Build a program, build the program back up.”
Gammons said that the Chiefs lost six-to-eight seniors from last year’s team and had other players decide to transfer that led to the demise of the program.
Carlisle will play seven games this season and Gammons expect to compete in all of them.
“We'll probably win them, all but two,” Gammons said. “Those two will be close, real close.”
Gammons said two players to watch from the Chiefs junior varsity team are pitcher Caleb Tisdale and catcher Logan Tunnel.
Because the Chiefs will play junior varsity this season, the team will not play in a postseason.