Hornets aim high

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2011

By Mike London
Salisbury baseball expects to be good, and it’s easy to see why.
The Hornets were 14-11 in 2010 and placed second in the 2A Central Carolina Conference with an 8-2 record. They return 99 percent of the pitching staff and seven hitters who were usually on coach Scott Maddox’s lineup card.
“The guys have set the bar high, and rightfully so,” said Maddox, who is in his 11th season. “This group loves to compete and expects a lot from themselves. If we can stay on an even keel and handle success as well as disappointment, we can get where we want to go.”
The only key offensive player missing is first baseman Jeremy Forbis, who hit .416 and led SHS with 21 RBIs.
Three-sport standout John Knox earned all-county and all-conference accolades in 2010.
Brian Bauk, Nolan Meyerhoeffer, Spencer Carmichael and Kyle Wolfe were voted to the All-CCC team. Versatile Philip Tonseth wasn’t All-CCC, but he was all-county.
“The guys have worked extremely hard, playing summer and fall ball and working out together almost every day,” Maddox said. “The key will be to carry that hard work over to the field and get results.”
Salisbury didn’t have much power last season — Knox slugged four of the team’s nine homers — but the Hornets won with consistent pitching and steady gloves.
“Our defense was our strong point,” Maddox said. “That will have to continue if the guys want to challenge for a CCC title. The CCC will be as strong top to bottom as it has been in a long time.”
Maddox is shifting Knox from shortstop, where he played as a junior, back to second base, where he spent his sophomore season.
Carmichael, last year’s second baseman, will play short this time, while Kyle Wolfe returns at third base. Like Knox, Wolfe is a three-year starter.
“ Besides being an excellent third baseman, Wolfe is our best contact hitter, a really tough out,” Maddox said.
Thirty-one of Wolfe’s 32 hits last year were singles, but he batted an impressive .386 and knocked in 16 runs.
Knox, fresh from the basketball court, led the Hornets in runs (32) and steals (nine) as a junior, while batting .354.
“Knox gets better every year,” Maddox said. “He’s hitting extremely well and has great range in the field. We look to him for leadership.”
Carmichael batted .333 in 2010 and knocked in 12 runs in only 33 official at-bats.
“Carmichael has transformed himself into one of the best shortstops in the area by working extremely hard,” Maddox said.
Freshman Chance Bowden gets the first chance to lock up the first-base job.
“He’s excellent defensively and has shown he is capable of holding his own against varsity pitching,” Maddox said.
Salisbury lost catcher Jordan Fuller’s defense to graduation. Junior Nathan Foster, coming off knee surgery, and sophomore Clint Veal will be counted on as the backstops. The outfield will be strong, with all the starters back.
Bauk will be in center field.
“Bauk is probably the fastest guy we’ve had in the outfield since I’ve been here,” Maddox said. “He runs down a lot of balls most guys wouldn’t get to.”
Bauk will be the leadoff hitter. He batted .317 and scored 22 runs last season.
Scott Van der Poel returns in left field. He batted .297 with 15 RBIs last season
“He played on a showcase team out of Concord in the fall, and that experience really helped him,” Maddox said. “He plays a steady left field.”
Nolan Meyerhoeffer is a fixture in right field. He also can fill in at second base and catcher and his bat always will be in the lineup somewhere. He hit a team-best .434 in 2010, with 17 RBIs, and Maddox expects him to take charge as the No. 3 hitter.
Ian Swaim has speed and will serve as a backup outfielder, courtesy runner and DH.
Chase Etters, Tyler Crisler, Sam Murph, Cody Earnhardt and Donte Hoover provide depth. Crisler and Hoover return from last season.
On the mound, southpaw Philip Tonseth (4-3, 3.71 ERA) and right-handers Bauk (4-3, 2.46) and Meyerhoeffer (1-1, 2.86) are expected to get the ball most of the time, with Veal (4-2, 4.46) also in the mix.
“Tonseth changes speeds well and hits his spots,” Maddox said. “Bauk has the arm strength to throw it by you and has improved his off-speed stuff. Meyerhoeffer has a live arm and throws strikes.”
Bowden, Wolfe, Murph and Knox are the relief hurlers.
“Our biggest question mark is pitching, not because the talent isn’t there, but because other than Philip we haven’t shown the consistency we need to have,” Maddox said.
Tonseth is headed to West Point and will be a walk-on with the Army baseball team. He can help himself with the bat. He hit .288 with 15 runs scored last season.
“Tonseth is the glue,” Maddox said. “Strong leadership.”
Justin Morgan, Ryan Crowder and Chris Painter are Maddox’s assistants.
“I am extremely fortunate to have such good coaches and good people helping me,” Maddox said.
The Hornets have had winning seasons four of the last six years. This should be another one.