SALISBURY — This year’s all-county baseball team was the 20th I’ve had a role in choosing. None have been easy, but this was one of the tougher ones.
When Carson joined the fun for the 2007 season, it gave us six county teams, and even if you didn’t take AP Calculus, that’s easy math. If we picked 18 guys, that would be an average of three per team.
Except some teams always are better than others.
Logically, Carson, which won 24 games and made the fourth round of the playoffs, should have more all-county players than Salisbury, which won seven games and didn’t make the playoffs at all.
Still, when the teams played each other, Carson was hard-pressed to beat the Hornets 1-0. That’s just baseball and proof that the guy on the bump — Riley Myers pitched for SHS against Carson — decides most of what happens in a baseball game.
Do we lean toward two-way players on all-county? Yes, we do. They’re the most important guys.
It was an unusual year. Carson won 24, East won 22, and South won 22, the first time we’ve ever had three county teams win 20 in the same season, much less 22. And yet the team with the best offensive numbers wasn’t Carson, East or South. It was West — and that was with the Falcons playing only 23 games.
Carson played 31, but no Cougar had as many RBIs as West’s Juan Garcia.
When the fourth-best team in the county has the best numbers, that complicates things some.
Three of the county’s four .400 hitters — that’s based on the stats posted by the teams — were Falcons. West plays in the same league as Carson and South and had more All-SPC players than either, so the coaches who picked all-conference looked at things a lot like we did.
The first rule of all-county teams is they should represent the entire county, whenever possible, and we kept that in mind. The final breakdown was four Mustangs, four Cougars, four Falcons, three Raiders, two Cavaliers and two Hornets.
We stretched the team from 18 to 19 because three teams were so successful, but it’s still missing some guys who had outstanding years.
Connor Johnson, East Sr. — The winner of the Patrick Snider Memorial Award as the county’s pitcher of the year, Johnson went 10-0 and dominated with 114 strikeouts and a 1.14 ERA. Signed with Catawba.
Luke Setzer, East Sr. — You could make a case that he was the county MVP because he was a stellar defender in center field and a good defender when he had to step in at catcher after an injury to Dustin Ritchie. He led the county with four homers and was second on the Mustangs in runs (24) and RBIs (23). Will play at Catawba.
Michael Caldwell, East Sr. — The winner of the Mark Norris Memorial Award as the county player of the year, Caldwell also was the SPC Player of the Year. He was the catalyst of East’s offense and a rock on defense. Signed with Pitt Community College.
Juan Garcia, West Jr. — No one has ever had a better inning than West’s third baseman, who had a grand slam and a two-run blast in the same frame in an SPC game with Hickory Ridge. Averaged better than an RBI per game and was tough to strike out.
Ike Freeman, East Soph. — Freeman led the Mustangs with 24 RBIs, batted .330 and was surehanded at shortstop. He’ll be a contender for player of the year the next two seasons.
John Daugherty, Carson Sr. — Daugherty didn’t have the kind of year he had in 2013 when he was Rowan County Player of the Year, but he still went 7-3 on the mound and nearly pitched a perfect game in the state playoffs. He’s also an outfielder and drove in a team-high 20 runs. Still undecided on college.
Dillon Atwell, Carson Sr. — Finished a fantastic three-year career at 26-5 and was 9-2 as a senior. He broke the Carson records for career wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. Still undecided on college.
Chance Bowden, Salisbury Sr. — The first baseman led the Hornets with a .375 batting average. He was pitched around more than anyone in the county, but he had seven doubles. He also pitched well when called on (2.23 ERA). Signed with Catawba.
Harrison Baucom, West Jr. — A concussion forced Baucom to miss a few games, but he was a great leadoff man for the Falcons, batted over .400 and was outstanding in right field.
Colton Laws, Carson Sr. — Elbow tenderness ended his pitching season early, but the county’s only Division I signee (East Carolina) was often overwhelming on the mound. He was 5-2 with an ERA of 0.93 and fanned 71 in just 45 innings. Laws also played first base, scored 15 runs and drove in 10.
Matt Honeycutt, South, Sr. — Honeycutt signed with Mars Hill, and a lot of area coaches believe the D-II Lions got a steal. Honeycutt has D-I receiving and throwing tools and ideal height. He raised his batting average to .329 with a second-half surge as South’s cleanup hitter.
Riley Myers, Salisbury Jr. — Myers pitched brilliantly when he was healthy (2.20 ERA), batted .369 with a team-high 17 RBIs and was a steady infielder when he didn’t pitch.
Michael Pinkston, West Sr. — Batted over .400 while anchoring West’s defense behind the plate. Pinkston will play at Guilford.
Chance Mazza, North, Sr. — North’s leadoff man and center fielder, he batted a team-best .411 and led the Cavaliers in runs (22) and RBIs (13). He was 11-for-11 on steals and whacked seven doubles. Headed to military service.
Heath Mitchem, Carson Jr. — Mitchem batted a team-high .366, and his versatility was important for the Cougars. He played first base, left field and right field and went 2-0 as a pitcher.
Michael Ball, West, Sr. — Ball had an outstanding season as a pitcher/left fielder. He batted .367 with three homers and won five games with an ERA of 1.35. Will play at Catawba Valley Community College.
Chandler Corriher, South Jr. — The second baseman was a key to South’s offense. He was second on the Raiders in runs scored (26) and fourth in RBIs (19) while batting in the No. 2 hole. He had the key hit in South’s Easter tournament championship win.
Chase Labbe, South Sr. — A first baseman who hit out of the No. 3 spot in his first year as a starter for South, Labbe batted .316 with seven doubles and 20 RBIs. He helped out on the mound and was 2-0. Headed to St. Andrews.
Jake Pritchard, North Soph. — Pritchard batted .366 while playing catcher and shortstop. He was second on the Cavaliers in runs (17) and RBIs (11).