Prep Baseball: 2009 Preseason Notebook

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 8, 2009

From staff reports
Getting ready for another prep baseball season. …Rowan County has produced three state runner-ups in the last decade ó North (2000), West (2004) and East (2008) ó but no state champions since the Mustangs won 3A in 1995.
On paper, both East and West have a chance for lengthy playoff runs in 2009 as long as key players get healthy and stay healthy, but there’s no guarantee that either will win the NPC.
Mooresville has lots of hitters, led by Catawba-bound catcher Aaron Meadows, and lots of potentially good pitchers in a deep, talented junior class.
Lake Norman has proven veteran pitching, led by Catawba-bound craftsman Nick Lomascolo. Catcher Joe Faist, who had seven RBIs opening day, is finally completely healthy.
East and West were both ranked in the top 10 in 3A in the Impact Baseball preseason poll. But polls don’t necessarily mean anything in March and don’t really do anything ó except fire up opponents, as West found out on an early trip to Piedmont.
West was ranked third and East seventh in the preseason poll if you’re keeping score at home.
West is the only team ranked in the top seven in 3A that didn’t win 20 games in 2008, which shows how much people think of talented additions Jon Crucitti, Hayden Untz and Randy Shepherd. All three played at other NPC schools last season.
“That’s going to mean some heated games when West plays Carson, when West plays Mooresville and when West plays Northwest,” said one neutral coach outside the league said. “I just hope everyone stays under control.”
FUNGOMAN: East outfielder Ben DeCelle estimated that since the addition of Fungoman, a five-figure, state-of-the-art practice machine the Mustangs are leasing, he’s getting five times as many flyballs in practice as he did last year.
THEY’RE BACK: The Cliff Peeler Easter Tournament was well-attended last season, even with both East and West missing in action.
The Mustangs toured Florida during the holiday, while West played in a tournament in Whiteville.
East ó and its enthusiastic following ó will be back in the Peeler event this season, although the Falcons will be traveling again.
Besides the varsity Easter tournament at Salisbury’s Robertson Stadium, East’s Staton Field will play host to a jayvee tournament that will include some teams outside the county such as A.L. Brown.

TALL ORDER: Davie County’s Carson Herndon will tell you quickly that he has always looked up to dad óand now coach, Mike Herndon.
And why not? Mike is the only coach in this preview section that knows what it feels like to win a title as a head coach. He won one at Southwest Guilford.
But now, it’s dad, standing 6 feet tall, who is looking up at his son. Carson has grown to a lanky 6-foot-5.
Mike says a lot of the height has to do with mom Carol, who is 5-11 and has tall sisters and a tall father.
When asked if 6-foot-5 is too tall to play shortstop, the elder Herndon was quick to reply, “Cal Ripken was 6-4, 6-5.”

GOOD RECORD: Davie’s Herndon is 245-160 in an 18-year career.
He’s 144-100 in 10 seasons at Davie, including 53-51 in the CPC.

STATE TITLE: Carson’s Chris Cauble has been a part of a state title, but as an assistant to Jeff Safrit at East back in 1995.
LOOSE LEFTY: West coach David Wright said his big junior left-hander Zack Simpson earned raves as one of the most impressive performers out of 50 top-flight prospects who gathered at West for a recent Impact I.D. Camp.
IRONMAN: West catcher Hernan Bautista was behind the plate every inning of every game last season.
“We were skating on thin ice,” Wright said. “We didn’t have a backup. If anything had happened to Hernan, we were in trouble.”
Now Hernan has help. His cousin, Jonie (pronounced Johnny) is on hand to help him out now and handle bullpens.
“Jonie can spell Hernan that third game of the week or maybe when we play in tournaments,” Wright said.
Hernan, Jonie and right fielder Carlos Bautista all figure prominently in West’s plans. None are brothers, but they are all cousins.
JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS: A number of baseball players played basketball, but Salisbury’s John Knox and West’s Crucitti and Brett Huffman had the longest time away from the diamond, as the Hornets and Falcons went to sectional finals.
“It was important that Jon and Brett hit with us whenever they had a chance,” Wright said.
SUPERMAN: Crucitti, who will play center field for the Falcons, is a throwback athlete, fast, strong and smart.
Wright says his maturity level is ridiculously high for a high school junior.
“He’s kind of already got a mental picture of where he wants to go and most kids his age don’t have any idea,” Wright said.
Crucitti punted and returned punts for West’s championship football team. Against East, he had passing, receiving and rushing touchdowns in the same game.
“I don’t think there’s a sport at this school he couldn’t play, and he makes everyone who coaches him a better coach,” Wright said. “If we start a hockey team tomorrow, Jon’s our best player.”
HUGE HAMPTON: Patrick Hampton is growing like a weed and is an imposing physical specimen, but Wright has enough varsity talent that he hopes Hampton, a sophomore, can stay with coach Brandon Earnhardt’s jayvees this year.
“Patrick should dominate,” Wright said.
MICLAT’S MUSCLE: West shortstop Philip Miclat hit .348 with no homers last season, but he shocked the world with four homers during the summer for the Rowan County Legion team.
“Philip is gonna be a get-on-base guy in college (he’s signed with Boston College), but (Rowan and Catawba assistant coach) Steven Sawyer did a lot for him, as far as hit bat speed and power,” Wright said. “I’d be the first one to give him credit.”
Miclat batted cleanup for West opening day.

LARGE STAFF: Let’s hope every coach on Carson’s roster makes a stroll to the mound at the same time. They almost outnumber the players.
Cauble has six assistants: Dwayne Fink (infielders), Ben Hampton (jayvee coach), Bill Elliott and Walker Snow (pitchers), Jonathon Basinger (catchers and jayvee assistant), and Travis Billings (trainer).
“As long as you’re all on the same page, you can’t have too many,” Cauble said. “If you come to our practices, they’re teaching different things. People are doing things all over the field.”
Fink is a former head coach at South. Billings was a player and assistant at South. Hampton played for Cauble at West and embraces the same philosophies. Elliott, who coached forever at A.L. Brown, has been teaching baseball for what seems like forever.
And then, there’s the young assistants.
Snow was Carson’s best player in 2007 but had arm surgery recently, cutting into his college career.
“Walker has really matured,” Cauble said. “He realizes not to take the game for granted. And Jonathon was a good catcher at South. So it’s good having young guys to be positive role models.”
NAME GAME: As you probably guessed, Salisbury’s Ryne Maddox, the son of coach Scott Maddox, was named for Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
Don’t expect to see Ryne at second base, however. He’s a designated hitter/outfielder.

ALL-NAME TEAM: The name of the year may belong to Carson’s Caleb Srackengast.
“We just call him Shrack,” laughed Cauble.
Julio Zubillaga is called “Zubie” and “Cubie.”
Why Cubie? His family came from Cuba.

BIG COUNTRY: Each afternoon, Patrick Bearden goes to practice at Carson hunting for playing time.
The rest of the time, he’s just hunting.
“He deer hunts 24-7,” chuckled Cauble. “He’s working at Frank Corriher Sausage the rest of the time. He’s just a big ol’ country boy. We call him, ‘Big Country.’ ”
He is surely that, standing 6-foot-1, 190 after losing some weight. But with all the hunting is he paying enough attention to baseball?
He’s still deer hunting,” Cauble said, “but he did what he needed to.”
Don’t be surprised to see Big Country starting at third, gunning down runners going to first.
THE Y MAN: Greg Yanz, whose last name becomes Zany if you jumble the letters properly, coached South Rowan’s jayvees for what seemed like forever.
The former Catawba player took over as jayvee coach way back in 1996 and held that post until this season when he switched to varsity assistant with newcomer Bubba Morris, a recent Catawba grad, taking charge of the jayvees.
“It was time for a change,” said a smiling Yanz, who has also built South into a perennial county champion in swimming.
GOOD START: South has lots of new faces around center fielder Blake Houston and star infielder Maverick Miles, but new coach Thad Chrismon liked what he saw in an opening-day victory against North.
“We made mistakes, but we also showed we could react well to adversity and bounce back,” Chrismon said. “I was just very pleased with the way we went about things.”
HALLS OF FAME: Justin Hall and James Hall joined the South team shortly before the start of the season.
Justin is now universally referred to as “Tank.”
“Normally, you’d just call the kid J-Hall, but they’re both J-Halls,” Chrismon said. “So Justin is Tank and James is James.”
“Tank” got an at-bat against North and was hit by a pitch.
GOOD WHEN IT COUNTS: Salisbury has been a very good playoff team under coach Maddox.
In 2006, the Hornets beat 24-2 West Stanly on the road in the first round.
In 2007, the Hornets won two more road playoff games, prevailing at Bandys and Brevard before running into powerhouse East Rutherford.
In 2008, the Hornets lost momentum down the stretch and in the CCC tournament, but they still notched their fourth road playoff victory in the last three seasons when they won a first-rounder at East Lincoln.
GOOD CREDENTIALS: North assistant coach Aaron Rimer had a great career at Catawba, including a game-winning regional homer, and enjoyed a fantastic high school career wearing Cavalier green.
Rimer hit .507 for the Cavaliers as a junior in 2001 and had 16 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs in only 67 at-bats. He’s the last Cav to bat .500.
You could make a pretty good argument that Rimer was North’s most productive player since Daniel Moore graduated in 2000. Rimer hit .399 for his career with 103 runs scored and 75 RBIs. He even stole 22 bases, although he’s bulked up a tad since his speedster days.
Rimer’s 105 hits were the most by any Cav who played in this century, until Bubba Morris rapped out 109.
DAKOTA TERRITORY: North has moved Dakota Brown from second base to shortstop this season.
Brown made one amazing play against South on opening day, diving for a stop and throwing a runner out from his knees ó with the help of a scoop by first baseman Kyle Munday.
WRIGHT STUFF: Former A.L. Brown flamethrower Jacob Wright is redshirting at Erskine this year.
SEMPER FI: A.L. Brown first baseman Wesley Summerlin missed a couple of early games because he was attending the Marine Corps graduation of his brother.
TROJAN HORSES: Don’t write off Northwest Cabarrus, even though it had a brutal first inning and lost 13-0 on opening day to Mount Pleasant.
Coach Joe Hubbard said his team is really young, but very talented, and the Trojans could be a tough team to beat in April once their pitching settles in.
Hubbard has talented veterans in Graham Lawing and Jordan Phillips, and he has both of UNC star Kyle Seager’s younger brothers on his roster this season ó Justin and Corey.
Corey, a touted freshman, drilled a double off the wall in Northwest Cabarrus’ 5-4 victory against Robinson last week.
Hubbard’s biggest worry right now is Cox Mill, the new Cabarrus school that’s opening in the fall. At last count, Hubbard figures the Trojans may lose 10 or 11 players now in the program to the new school.

Mike London and Ronnie Gallagher contributed to the notebook.