High school baseball: Hornets relying on young guys

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Third in a series of reports on high school baseball …

By Mike London

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Hornets have quite a few good baseball players back, but Kaleb Burleyson isn’t one of them.

Burleyson led the 2022 Hornets in batting average, runs and RBIs — and won six games on the mound —  so losing him was like subtracting two studs.

“He was that guy for us,” Salisbury coach Carson Herndon said. “He pitched, he caught, he hit.”

Led by Burleyson, Salisbury went 14-10 in Herndon’s first season as head coach.

The schedule wasn’t rugged, but 14 wins is 14 wins and exceeded all expectations. The Hornets won eight league games, finishing third. East Davidson and West Davidson, who usually are going to be the favorites in 1A/2A Central Carolina baseball, tied for first.

“That guy” for Salisbury this season could be sophomore Hank Webb, although Webb, who made three 3-pointers in Saturday’s wild overtime win at West Caldwell, still will be hooping tonight when Salisbury takes on Reidsville in a regional semifinal.

Webb is an old-fashioned three-sport athlete. On the diamond, he’s a 6-foot-3 pitcher/infielder with good wheels. He led the Hornets with 18 steals last season and was 2-1 on the mound.

Webb smacked a triple in his only at-bat in a scrimmage against North Rowan at Catawba. Then he had to head to basketball practice.

Herndon is optimistic of getting another big addition from the basketball team. Junior Mike Geter is one of the county’s best athletes and has attended some baseball workouts.

As sports fans who follow Salisbury basketball and football know, Geter is a strong, quick lefty with a great arm and leadership qualities.

“Mike is penciled in as our starting center fielder,” Herndon said. “We hope basketball goes all the way, but we’d love to get Mike out here when they’re finished.”

Salisbury also graduated starters Jack Everson and Reed Fugle, but Herndon played a lot of freshmen last season and has a pretty solid core group that includes Webb, Evan Koontz, Jackson Sparger, Cole Price and Landon Tucker.

Aiden Mowery, a junior, is another young veteran. He’s a solid hitter.

“Those guys know the game — they’re a good group of  baseball players,” Herndon said. “They have been in the cage working since October. If we’re not good, it’s not going to be because there was a lack of effort. They’ve put in a lot of time and they’re ready to roll.”

Koontz was 3-2 last season and will be counted on to pitch often. Sparger, Price and Tucker also accounted for mound wins last season.

The Hornets won’t be deep, so there will be different defensive looks, depending on who’s on the mound on that particular night.

Mowery at second base and Koontz at shortstop is the most likely DP combination.

Webb will man first, third or shortstop when he’s not pitching.

Sparger is versatile. He’ll play some infield and will share catching duties with Price.

The outfield could be solidified by Geter, but it’s the team’s least certain area at this point. Tucker, Nygel Elliott, Christian Rosado and Anthony Young are leading candidates.

Webb could excel in the outfield, but the Hornets probably are going to need him in the dirt.

The schedule looks tougher. The Hornets will play early games in a Surry tournament against Surry Central and North Surry.

“Those Surry games will give us a pretty good idea where we stand right away,” said Herndon, an All-State shortstop in his playing days at Davie County and an ace college pitcher at Liberty. “We had some success last season with these young guys, and we’re hoping to do well again.”


Salisbury baseball at a glance

Coach: Carson Herndon (2nd season, 14-10)

Player to watch: Hank Webb

Key loss: Kaleb Burleyson

2022 record: 14-10, 8-4 CCC (3rd)

Opening game: March 3, home vs. North Rowan (non-conference)

Conference regular-season championships (3): 1955, 1984, 2008