Prep Baseball: West Rowan preview

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 4, 2012

By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA — The transition for Chad Parker as head baseball coach at West Rowan will be easier this season.
It couldn’t be more uncomfortable than last year.
David Wright suddenly left the program early in 2011 and Parker, a former head coach who was the assistant, was given the task of rebuilding the Falcons.
A 5-20 final record doesn’t look good but West was playing well at the end, losing to talented West Iredell in the North Piedmont Conference tournament semifinals 3-2.
At least, it was something to build on, especially for Parker who finally has a say from the beginning.
“You know you’re the head coach going in so you can prepare,” he said.
Even though West has started 1-2, the improvement and organization is already evident. And the postseason, which used to be an annual ritual, is a goal to shoot for.
Pitching will be the key behind senior right-hander Matt Miller and junior lefty Justin Evans.
“Miller will keep us in ballgames,” Parker said. “He’s a bulldog on the mound who gets by with a lot of movement, mixing speeds and location.”
Evans was impressive Friday, even though he was the loser in a 2-0 verdict at Mooresville. He tossed a nifty four-hitter.
“He’s matured,” Parker said. “We’re looking for him to be a solid No. 2. He has three pitches (fastball, curveball and changeup) and can throw them for strikes. His success comes when he mixes speeds and hits spots.”
Senior Chase Laing and sophomores Nick Collins and Michael Ball will see time.
“Chase pitched some last year and was dominant in flashes,” Parker said. “He’s a fastball-slider kid.”
Collins had a good season on jayvee and can work both sides of the plate. Ball is a big kid who Parker said will eventually throw three pitches.
“Ball and Nick will be middle-inning guys,” Parker said. “But we’ll lean heavily on Justin and Matt.”
Michael Pinkston will catch and be backed up by Tyler Hamm.
“Pinkston is what you ask for in a receiver,” Parker said. “He has a little pop in his bat.”
First baseman Louis Kraft is a big target at 6-foot-4.
“Louis had a good fall and I think he’ll hit well for us,” Parker said. “He needs a big year.”
Senior Bryce Burns may be the most effective Falcon so far with a homer and double.
“I’m looking for him to give us some great at-bats,” Parker said. “He’s a tough-nosed ballplayer who leads by example. He works really hard.”
Burns will team with shortstop Hunter Teeter in the middle of the infield.
“He’s definitely a take-charge kid,” Parker said. “He plays with passion and wants everybody else to play with that same passion.”
Collins can play third and he’ll have big shoes to fill as Chandler Jones graduated. Teeter played shortstop on jayvee.
“Third is a different animal,” Parker explained. “It’s a reaction position. He’s a big, strong kid with good hands and has worked hard to get quicker.”
Ball can also play third while Evans will be at first. Jamie Spurlin, a talented junior, is a shortstop. Jacob Watson is at first.
Speedy Cody McNeely and Rhett Hellard, both juniors, are in left field.
“Cody’s athletic,” Parker said. “Rhett is a fundamentally sound outfielder. It comes down to who is producing offensively.”
Six-foot-three Tyler Stamp mans center field.
“He’s a big, athletic outfielder who can cover both gaps pretty well,” praised Parker. “If he gets on base, he can create a lot of havoc.”
Laing could start in right when he’s not pitching. Seniors Jonah Marsh and Grant Beatty are also options.
“Laing has the arm strength to play there,” Parker said. “He ended last year offensively on fire. I hope it carries over.”
There are plenty of new faces. Only Miller, Evans and Teeter were starters.
“We’ve had two years of inexperienced kids,” Parker said. “The only way to get experience is to play.”
Teeter will lead off while Evans, Collins, Miller and Kraft will be the heart of the order. But defense is the key.
“Our problem last year was keeping the the other team from scoring,” Parker said. “If we make one mistake, can we put it behind us? If we make the routine plays, we have a chance to win.””
And winning is something West was used to until the last couple of years.
“Our seniors haven’t been to the playoffs since they were freshmen,” reminded Parker. “Our junior class has never been there. And that was always expected. They’ve forgotten what it feels like and what it takes to get there. We want to get back.”