Prep baseball: Salisbury’s Buchanan to Belmont Abbey
By Mike London
Baseball coaches are smart, but they aren’t perfect. Sometimes they can’t see the Forrest for the trees.
Salisbury’s Forrest Buchanan enjoyed an all-county senior season as a two-way player. He batted .397. He was second among county hurlers in strikeouts and will continue his career next season at Division II power Belmont Abbey.
Yet, Buchanan spent his sophomore year batting .192 and trying in vain to convince coach Scott Maddox to give him a shot on the mound. Maddox advised Buchanan to stick to swinging a bat and fielding groundballs.
“I shrugged Forrest off,” Maddox said. “It’s (pitching coach) Justin Morgan that deserves a lot of the credit for Forrest’s success. He watched him throw early in his junior year and said, ‘I believe this guy can pitch.’ I told Morgan to have at it.”
Morgan, a college pitcher at Radford, started experimenting. His laboratory was the SHS bullpen.
“Coach Morgan had me throw for him,” Buchanan said. “After that, he sort of took me as his project.”
Buchanan threw nine innings as Salisbury’s No. 6 pitcher last year. He was 1-0 with 10 strikeouts. The win came in long relief against North Rowan.
Buchanan spent most of his junior season at first base and made strides as a hitter. He batted .306 ó quite a step up from .192.
“Forrest is a really good person,” Maddox said. “When he came here he wasn’t very athletic, very agile or very fast, but he worked to get better. He made himself significantly better.”
Graduation and transfers nearly wiped out the Hornets prior to the 2009 season, but Maddox relied on Buchanan and Russell Michalec to lead a team that was usually competitive.
Buchanan, who managed only three extra-base hits as a junior, belted nine doubles and two homers as a senior.
“I thought I could do it, and it was nice things came together,” Buchanan said. “The only change I made was going to the opposite field a lot more.”
On the mound, the right-hander was 4-5 with a 3.32 ERA for a team that won seven games. He got better as he went along. He posted three consecutive complete games in a row late in the season. He allowed a total of three earned runs in his last four starts.
Catawba pitcher and Rowan County American Legion assistant Travis McSweeney heard about Buchanan and went over to watch him pitch.
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Buchanan certainly looked like a hurler, and McSweeney left Salisbury’s Robertson Stadium convinced Buchanan had enough stuff to help the Legion team.
On opening night, Buchanan stated his case to get plenty of work. He pitched five shutout innings at Randolph County’s McCrary Park.
“Forrest has got a good breaking ball,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Like a lot of young pitchers, he needs to work a little quicker and throw more strikes, but he’s starting to figure it out. He doesn’t yet realize everything he’s got, but he’s going to be a good pitcher.”
Buchanan has a neighbor that went to Belmont Abbey. That got him interested in the school.
He visited the school, talked to coaches and found a home. He was offered a package, mostly academic money because he’s done a good job in the classroom, to join the program.
“As a pitcher and utility player,” Buchanan said.
He’s played the infield corners and the outfield at Salisbury, so he could contribute in several areas to the Crusaders. They were Conference Carolinas champions and recently played in the D-II World Series.
Buchanan, who will join East Rowan and Rowan Legion catcher Austin Shull at Belmont Abbey, followed the Crusaders online in the World Series.
“Belmont Abbey is a strong program, so Forrest won’t be thrown into the fire right away,” Maddox said. “He’ll have an opportunity to learn, develop and ease in.”
Maddox is pleased Buchanan’s career will continue and couldn’t be happier to admit he was wrong.
“Forrest proved himself to me,” Maddox said. “He’s a good example of someone who refused to listen when he was told he couldn’t do something. He just went out and got it done.”
By Seth Leonard email@example.com A gang of far-riding and well-traveled motorcyclists made Salisbury their home Thursday. But it wasn’t a... read more