Prep Baseball: Salisbury preview
This is the second of six previews of Rowan County baseball teams.
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Scott Maddox lost some very good seniors last season in Philip Tonseth, John Knox and Spencer Carmichael from a 14-11 team. What does that mean?
“We have to replace a lot of very good sticks with guys with no varsity experience,” Maddox explained.
But at least his young team has a returning star pitcher in junior Brian Bauk to lean on.
When Salisbury started their season at home Tuesday against A.L. Brown, Bauk was still on the disabled list with a shoulder injury suffered in football.
Now, Maddox is really inexperienced.
Bauk will be back in mid-March and the Salisbury coach can’t wait.
“Bauk is as good as anybody anyone else will run out there,” Maddox said. “He has an upper 80’s fastball with great movement and two good off-speed pitches.”
Bauk has received interest from numerous Division I programs after a good summer playing for the South Charlotte Panthers. He was 4-4 last season with a 3.25 ERA. He struck out 49 in 47 innings.
No Bauk, but Maddox does have Scott Van der Poel. As good as Bauk is on the mound, Van der Poel is as effective with the bat.
The senior outfielder led the Hornets last season with a .463 average. He should improve on his 15 RBIs and six doubles.
“He is seeing the ball really well early and we expect him to have a big year at the plate,” Maddox said.
Defensively, Van der Poel will be in right unless Bauk is pitching. Then he’ll move over to center.
While Bauk rehabs, Maddox will turn to Scott Friedrich and Chance Bowden.
“Friedrich has improved tremendously and will give us quality innings,” Maddox said. “Bowden, a lefty, reminds me a lot of the graduated Tonseth. If he can develop the grit and will to compete like Philip, he can be just as good on the hill.”
Freshman Riley Myers and Kyle Wolfe will also pitch.
“Myers has a live arm and tremendous upside,” Maddox said. “If he will work hard and listen, he can be special on the mound. Wolfe has increased his velocity and is a strike thrower we will depend on in the late innings.”
Another freshman, Ryan Jones, will also provide innings.
Catching the pitchers are senior Nathan Foster and Ben Ritchie.
“Right now, both guys have been working hard and it is a real battle to see who wins out. It may be a situation where we use both. Last year, we spent too much time chasing passed balls but with Nathan and Ben, we should see a big improvement there.”
Sophomore Bowden will be at first, backed up by Parker McKeithan and Jimmy Leone. Bowden started as a freshman. McKeithan, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound college prospect in football as an offensive lineman, has worked on his footwork around the bag. He’ll see a lot of time at designated hitter.
“Parker is a big bat,” Maddox said. Jimmy has come on strong in the past year.”
Maddox says Bowden is “as good a glove as we have ever had at Salisbury.”
All-county Knox is gone at second and he should be replaced by Luke Bess, a sophomore transfer from Lexington, and Myers.
“Both are young and have a good understanding of the game,” Maddox said. “Offensively, we’ll have to take a wait-and-see attitude.”
Wolfe is in at shortstop, moving over from third where Carmichael played last season. He hit .274 past season.
“We have really been pleased with Kyle’s transition,” Maddox said. “Offensively, Kyle has always been a hitter and we really need him to step up even more this year with the bat.”
Replacing Wolfe at third is junior Skyler Mikkelson, who has built up his arm strength. Jones will also play there.
“(Mikkelson) has looked impressive in early scrimmages defensively but we will need him to hit consistently to maximize his contributions.”
Who joins Van der Poel in the outfield is a question mark. Left and right field spots are wide open.
Seniors Chase Etters and Cody Earnhardt, juniors Ritchie and Friedrich, and newcomers Jones and Bess are all in the mix.
“Defensively, we can be pretty good,” Maddox said. “We have guys who understand the game and hopefully that will transfer over to the results on the field. (Offensively), until we have seen varsity pitching for several games, it’s a question mark.”
For the record, Salisbury managed only three hits in the opener.
With a few games under their belt, the Hornets could find their groove.
“As a team, we can be pretty good but we have to come every day focused and ready to work,” Maddox said. “We aren’t talented enough just to show up and win games. We have to work at it and be ready to compete every time out. It’s going to take a hard-nosed, no-holds-barred performance each and every time out to get where we want to go — and that’s a CCC title and a run in the state playoffs.”
NOTE: Salisbury tries again today, traveling to Concord.