Wednesday, February 6, 2013
The Berkeley baseball team is on a mission: To go where no Stag has gone before.
Not just to defend a District VII championship in 2012, but to go deeper into the state playoffs than any prior team.
After winning the district championship a year ago, the Stags reached the Lower State Final Four before falling to eventual Lower State champion AC Flora, and Chapin.
These same Stags are back this year, a year older, a year stronger and a year more experienced.
“I don’t have any stud baseball players on this team, a guy who can take the ball out or shut down a team by himself, but I have a team full of gamers,” said BHS Coach Landy Cox. “I’ve got a starting nine of gamers on this team, guys that will do what they have to do to win a baseball game.”
Cox is cautiously optimistic, careful not to make any bold predictions.
He doesn’t have to. The Stags most significant losses last year were outfielder Nick Hill and pitchers Garrett Gallagher and Matt Kizer.
Catcher Kyle Garrick, a junior and a fourth-year starter, anchors the offense and defense behind the plate. Shortstop Connor Teague and sophomore Dillon Salisbury shore up the keystone combination, and the team’s own version of Charlie Hustle in leadoff hitter Eric Orton patrols centerfield.
Joseph Dress is expected to see plenty of playing time at third and senior Tanner Richberg flashes a solid glove at first. Dylan Baker and Brandon Browder will play in the outfield, or spell Garrick behind the plate, or DH.
One thing this team has is depth. “I’ve got 14 guys who could start,” Cox said. “Hopefully over the early games I can get everybody some playing time while we have guys recover from injuries, but we can only play nine.”
This is a team that specializes in small ball. Lacking a legitimate long ball threat, they play station to station and execute when they are called upon to lay down a bunt or hit and run. The Stags can do this anywhere in the lineup.
On the mound the Stags return Sterling Fiddle, who threw six-plus innings of shutout relief in the 7-0 win district championship win over Cane Bay. Also, Andrew Lockliear, who helped lead Northwood to the SCISA state title game last year, returns. Lockliear pitched for Berkeley as a freshman before transferring to Northwood. Joshua Clarke and Craig Mims will also provide some innings on the mound.
“We have some younger guys who can really throw,” Cox said. “So we’re going to be taking a look at a lot of guys in the next couple weeks.”