South Rowan baseball preview

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 5, 2012

This is the fifth of six previews on Rowan County baseball teams.
Today: South Rowan
By Ryan Bisesi
LANDIS — A lot of games were just out of grasp for South Rowan last year.
This season, the Raiders want to lengthen their reach.
South had an interesting season in 2011. There was a 16-run inning in a win against West Rowan and there were games in which scoring runs was a luxury, as in the 2-1 loss to Charlotte Catholic in the first round of the state playoffs.
It’s South coach Thad Chrismon’s job this year to turn those games into wins.
“We expect to win those games this year,” Chrismon said. “You’re going to face a good pitcher every once and a while who’s going to give you a hard time offensively. If you can’t win those low-scoring games, you can’t hang with the elite teams.”
The Raiders will look for more ways to score runs this year to transform 2-1 losses into 3-2 victories. South finished 11-13 last season. Chrismon is heading into his fourth season as the head coach.
South has considerable talent returning. No. 1 starting pitcher Matt Miller is back for his senior year as is catcher Eric Tyler, who has the highest returning average on the team. Both were All-County last year and hope to build on that.
Miller posted a 2.86 ERA and hit a team-high four homers before signing with Wingate.
“Matt throws it hard and he’s got good movement on his fastball and slider,” Chrismon said. “The biggest thing about Matt is he’s been through the tests. He gave us a chance last year in games where we really didn’t produce offensively.”
There is strength up the middle of the infield as well. Second baseman Parker Hubbard and shortstop Dylan Goodman both started all of 2011. Both hit over .300 last season and are sound defensively.
“Those guys have got good chemistry together,” Chrismon said. “With Eric catching and those two up the middle, it gives us a good core.”
Goodman was the leadoff hitter last year and has resumed the role in this season’s first three games. Hubbard had a pair of three-hit games last week.
Tyler hits in the 3 hole with Miller batting cleanup.
“It’s an experienced group,” Chrismon said. “There’s a lot of varsity games involved in those four.”
Miller split time between the outfield and the mound last year and has worked some at the hot corner. The Raiders are replacing Jacob Dietz and Cory Deason at third.
Tyler hit .358 last season and his coming into this third year on the varsity squad. Chrismon calls him his “coach on the field” and he’s a seasoned communicator for the pitching staff
“He’s going to be able to do some things as a junior that we haven’t had in a while,” Chrismon said. “He’s able to give us a defensive weapon back there.”
Chrismon says sound pitching and defense will be the goal of South.
“You can’t rely on banging out 10, 11 runs a game,” he said.
At first base, Bubba McLaughlin brings a burly frame and solid defense. McLaughlin played some on varsity last season.
Johnny Lefebvre will back up McLaughlin after he recovers from an arm injury that will have him out another few weeks.
Blake Sechler has played South’s first three games at third base, which Chrismon says is in flux at the moment. Chrismon says Sechler has the toughness to play third.
Jake Fulton will be in the mix at third and will be the backup catcher.
Speedy sophomore Tyler Fuller could develop into a top -of-the order guy eventually. Fuller hit in the 9 spot in the first three games and got six hits. Fuller started in right field in the first three games.
The outfield will look different every game dependent on who’s on the mound.
“We spend a lot of time working the guys in different spots to give us that flexibility,” Chrismon said.
Billy Winecoff will split time between the outfield and the mound as will Austin Holbrook and Jordan Kennerly. Holbrook made the state individual wrestling finals and is getting into baseball shape. He pitched two innings in relief and allowed no earned runs against A. L. Brown.
“A lot of these guys can pitch so you’ve got to have a little bit of versatility out there,” Chrismon said.
Spencer Matlock will be a reserve outfielder.
Dillon Parker will be the No. 2 starter for South. The six-foot-3 junior threw 191/3 innings last season.
Aaron Bare is a right-handed hurler and will play some limited first base.
Kennerly started on the mound and got the win in South’s 11-4 triumph Friday against A.L. Brown. The Raiders started the season with losses to Mt. Pleasant and Northwest Cabarrus.
South begins conference play today at West Iredell.
“I’m excited to see us get into conference,” Chrismon said. “I think we’ve got a versatile bunch. Offensively, I’m excited that we’re able to do some things we haven’t done in the past.”