College Baseball: Catawba could have banner season
SALISBURY — One of the memorable games of the 2012 American Legion season was Rowan County’s trip to Kannapolis.
Rowan’s visit occurred on the same night Kannapolis star Corey Seager was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and after watching himself get drafted, Seager rushed to the ballfield where Rowan and Kannapolis were tied 4-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
Seager’s arrival at the Northwest Cabarrus High diamond created a stir, and coach Joe Hubbard directed him to grab a bat and prepare to pinch hit.
No heroics from Seager were necessary, however. Leading off the bottom of the ninth, Jordan Goodman homered off Brian Bauk to provide a walk-off victory for Kannapolis.
That was Kannapolis’ eighth hit. Goodman had four of them, including two doubles.
Rowan County coach Jim Gantt is also Catawba’s coach, and he had seen enough of Goodman to start recruiting him.
“We know Jordan can really hit, plus he hits lefty, and that’s huge,” Gantt said.
Gantt’s pursuit of Goodman, a power-hitting first baseman, was successful. Goodman, who will graduate from Northwest in May, is among Catawba’s early signees.
“Catawba is close by and I was looking for a smaller school and smaller classes,” Goodman said. “And they’ve got a great baseball program with a great place to play.”
Catawba annually has been a contender for SAC championships and regional titles under Gantt, but it finally took another giant step last spring by winning the Southeast Regional and qualifying for its first World Series.
Players like Goodman should keep Catawba in the mix as one of the elite programs in Division II. If you hadn’t heard of Goodman before last spring there’s a reason. ACL tears cost him his freshman — and sophomore seasons.
The 2012 high school season marked the first time he’s been anywhere close to healthy. He played on a high school team with major stars — Seager, Charlotte’s Weston Smith and UNC signee Tanner Bigham — but he still wasn’t hard to spot.
“I just had to do the work in rehab to come back strong and show I could still do it,” Goodman said. “I never doubted that I’d be able to come back and play college baseball.”
Gantt said the 5-foot-11 Goodman has done a lot of work on his stocky body and has shed a lot of weight.
“When I was hurt, I couldn’t follow my conditioning program the way I wanted to, but I’m full healthy now,” Goodman explained. “I’ve lost 35 pounds since last season. I know I’ve got to be in great shape to play college baseball. I can be a DH, but my goal is to become Catawba’s starting first baseman.”
Gantt says Goodman is a very advanced hitter for his age and isn’t just a pull hitter. He can drive the ball to all fields, depending on how he’s pitched.
“Since I was a little kid they’ve pitched me outside,” Goodman said. “But one of the things I learned from Corey is that, if you do everything right, you can hit that outside pitch just as hard as the inside pitch.”
Also signing early with Catawba was East Davidson pitcher Avery Bowles.
The 6-2 Bowles shut out Salisbury with seven strikeouts and no walks in a game late last season and was on the All-CCC team. As a junior, he went 10-1 with a 1.43 ERA. He struck out 70, while walking eight.
“He’s a sleeper,” Gantt said. “He’s got a long, loose arm with a good fastball, a good curve and a changeup.”
Athlete Malachi Hanes signed early and is expected to play baseball and football. His brother, Jacob, is a standout defensive end for the football Indians.
Hanes played defensive back for Butler’s 4AA state champions.
“He has Division I athletic ability, but he wanted to go where he had a chance to play both sports,” Gantt said. “And Catawba has a lot of Butler connections.”
Former Catawba head football coach Steve Shaughnessy is Butler’s defensive coordinator.
Catawba made its impressive run last season — the Indians finished 45-17 and were ranked fourth nationally — even with some talented players working on eligibility, waiting for eligibility or coming back from injuries.
Former Davie slugger/hurler Joe Watson; former South Rowan star Blake Houston, who started in center field as a freshman in 2011; former East Rowan masher Zach Smith, who spent two years at Pitt Community College, and pitcher/first baseman Austin Moyer, who was a key performer in 2011, are projected to be in action when the season begins in two months.
Gantt said Houston was impressive enough this fall that the New York Yankees requested a personal interview with him.
The key to the Indians’ success last season was pitching, and starters Nick Lomascolo, John J. Tuttle and Ross Whitley return, along with relief standout Craig Brooks.
Offensive stalwarts such as Garrett Furr, Ethan Satterfield, Julio Zubillaga (all-tournament in the World Series), Chris Dula (he’ll be healthy this season), Cameron Beard and Keaton Hawks also are back. The only questions are catcher and shortstop, albeit two pretty important questions.
Two more names to know are Paul “Korndog” Kronenfeld and Dylan Richardson, a pair of Division I transfers.
Gantt compares Kronenfeld, a junior, to former Catawba hero Jerry Sands, which is probably all you need to know.
Kronenfeld, who was born in Greensboro, was All-State at Virginia’s Woodberry Forest High in 2009 and 2010. He had a 15-homer season in high school and batted .460 with 81 RBIs for his career.
The lefty slugger signed with Georgia Tech and played a little for the Yellow Jackets as a freshman in 2011. He saw quite a bit of action as a sophomore when he hit .303 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 89 at-bats. He started 23 games in 2012, but he apparently was seeking a chance to be a full-time player. He’s found it.
“There’s been a lot of buzzing about Kronenfeld since he got here,” Gantt said. “He’s 6-3, 215, a big, athletic guy, and he’s been launching the ball. He’ll be in left or right field, probably right. We played about 25 intraquad games this fall, and it seemed like every at-bat he had was a walk, a double or a home run.”
Richardson, an infielder, is coming to Catawba after a redshirt season at Appalachian State and will likely compete for the shortstop job.
He starred for strong Randleman teams that won the 2A state title in 2010 and finished runner-up in 2011 and he also was a fine player for Randolph County Post 45.
Richardson (5-8, 160) hit 10 homers, drove in 48 runs and batted .516 as a prep junior.
Gantt tried to recruit him out of high school, but he picked Appalachian State over UNC Greensboro, Elon, East Carolina and UNC Asheville.
• Gantt said former East Rowan relief ace Will Johnson was sensational during the fall season.