Stags’ goal: Finish strong
With the start of the 2014 baseball season just over a week away, Berkeley baseball coach Landy Cox already has his eye on May.
He’s not looking ahead or past these games on the schedule in February, March and April, he just wants to finish the season strong.
“In 2012 we finished strong and won the District championship over Cane Bay,” Cox said. “I felt like we played our best baseball at the end of the season.”
The Stags ultimately fell in the semifinals of the Class AAA Lower State Championship.
In 2013, Berkeley won its first region championship in over 50 years, and put together a string of 22 straight wins to begin the season, but the Stags appeared to have run out of gas over the regular season’s final two weeks.
“Last year I didn’t feel like we played our best baseball at the end of the season,” Cox said. “I think the pressure of carrying that winning streak like we did took its toll ultimately.”
This year Cox wants to finish the season in full stride.
“We want to have a chance to win every game at the end of the year,” he said. “I want us to be playing our best baseball.”
Like every other baseball team in the state, Cox believes his team has a shot at the big prize as long as it plays basic fundamental baseball.
“I think on the field our starting nine is as good as they come,” he said. “We have a solid defense and guys in the lineup that can produce offensively. If our pitchers put the ball in play we have a good chance of catching it.”
Pitching in recent years has been the anchor of Berkeley’s success. This season’s mound staff is expected to be no different just as long as they can stay healthy.
“We were really blessed over the last couple years to have two or three workhorse arms to carry our pitching staff,” Cox said. “We had Tyler Barwick and Matthew Kizer, and then after they left Andrew Lockliear. Right now we have some tender arms starting the season.”
Cox cited the play of Jeffrey Stone and Josh Fiddie in the season’s first scrimmage against Summerville.
“We went up against some D-1 arms from Summerville,” Cox said. “Sawyer Bridges is a legitimate arm out there, one of the best we’ll see all season. Jeffrey Stone looked good on the mound with his curveball and changeup and Josh Fiddie squared-up a couple balls last night and made great contact.”
Around the horn the Stags are set with Connor Teague and Dillon Salisbury anchoring the Keystone Combination up the middle, Kyle Orton in centerfield, and six-year starter Kyle Garrick behind the plate. Josh Simmons and Dylan Baker round out the outfield, with Sterling Fiddie, 2013 All-State pitcher Zach Gonzales and Kyle Morrison rotating at the corners.
“We’ll rotate in and out at first and third, depending on who’s pitching,” Cox said.
Berkeley opens its 2014 season schedule against Timberland on Feb. 28 with the dedication of the new baseball facility at Jim Bradley Field, which enjoyed a $31,000 facelift during the off season with a new brick backstop, sidewalks and improved seating.
“It’s always a big game when we’re playing Timberland,” Cox said, “And they will come ready to play so we better be bring our A-game.”
The Wolves are coached this year by coach Art Craig, who stepped into the dugout when the only baseball coach the school had ever known in Chris Pond departed last summer for Goose Creek.
“Art Craig could be coaching women’s golf and you better be ready to play against him because the man is a competitor and he plays to win,” Cox said. “There will be a great crowd and a lot of excitement on the field.”