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Prep Baseball Preview: North will rely on hurlers

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

North Rowan Cavaliers baseball

2016 record: 17-8, lost 1st round of the 2A playoffs to eventual state champion East Rutherford.

League record: 9-1, 1st place in the 6-team Central Carolina Conference.

Coach: The new head man is former East Rowan player and ex-Mount Pleasant coach Tommy Small. He’s replacing Aaron Rimer, who left North for the head job at Topsail.

Strength: Outfield defense — good speed and good arms.

Question marks: Depth. North has a thin roster. Injuries will be hard to overcome.

The Cavaliers must replace two workhorse starting pitchers and a lot of big bats. They lost three infield regulars as well as catcher Jake Pritchard, the Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year. North returns only two of its eight All-CCC players.

Returning players:

• Henderson Lentz had a stellar junior season for the Cavaliers, batting .419 with 18 RBIs to earn All-Rowan County as well as All-CCC honors. The lefty just finished a basketball season in which he was honored as Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year. He’ll be in center field, where his long strides cover a lot of ground, and he’ll be counted on as a hurler.

• Left-hander Joe Harrison, who is headed to Belmont Abbey, is a two-way player who was All-CCC last season. Harrison was outstanding in relief in 2016, going 5-0 with a nearly invisible ERA. He’ll be counted on to log a lot a lot more innings than last season when the Cavaliers had Brandon White and Noah Gonzalez on the mound. Harrison batted .278 with nine RBIs and probably will man left field when he’s not on the mound.

• Senior Corbin Smith is an experienced middle infielder and will play shortstop. Smith batted .304 with 9 RBIs. North’s football quarterback, he has a good arm and size and may pitch some.

• Javin Goodine and McGwire Smith have experience and will be in the lineup somewhere because of their bats. Goodine, mostly a DH in the past, will open the season at third base. Smith can pitch and will play in the outfield often because all of North’s projected starting outfielders are pitchers.

• Junior Brett Tucker was a utility guy last season. He’ll be the starting catcher this time.

New faces:  Small believes strong-armed Mark Parra, a junior outfielder/pitcher, who transferred from New York, is a potential star. He also envisions a bright future for  freshman first baseman Jordan Goodine, Javin’s younger brother. The second baseman will be another newcomer. Junior Kobe Dupree will open the season as the starter, with sophomore Logan Stoner also in the picture. Freshman Gavin Kuld is the backup catcher.

Quote: “I like the way we throw it and catch it,” Small said. “Now we just have to figure out how to score five or six runs a game.”

Schedule: North opens at home against Central Cabarrus on Wednesday. Four of North’s first five games are at home, which will give the new faces a chance to settle in. North won’t begin CCC play until March 28 when it takes on Lexington.

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