Young Arms Lead Eagles

After finishing runner-up to Spartanburg Christian in SCISA Class 2A Region III last year, the Richard Winn Academy Eagles varsity baseball squad has hit the diamond running in 2013, kicking off the season with a convincing 10-0 shellacking of Westminster Catawba Monday night. Although Tuesday’s cross-town showdown with Fairfield Central was postponed by rain (rescheduled for Wednesday), the Eagles are focused on a strong showing for 2013, riding the arms of a young pitching staff and a fleet of budding talent.

“Our guys worked hard in the weight room during the off-season,” head coach Al Berry said. “They’ve gotten a lot stronger, and that gives us a better chance to compete against the kind of teams we have to compete with – the Cardinal Newmans, the Heathwood Halls, the Fairfield Centrals.”

And forget about the old saw that strength training doesn’t work for baseball, that it tightens up the swing or restricts mechanics. Berry knows better.

“If you do it right and maintain your flexibility, it improves you athletically,” Berry said, “and keeps you from getting hurt.”

Monday night’s 10-run victory appears to make Berry’s point. Monday night was also Berry’s first look of the year at the top of his pitching staff, senior lefty Sidney Edenfield, who notched his first win of the season in two innings of work. Following Edenfield was another Southpaw, sophomore Blake Pauley, who also worked two, with junior Jason Branham closing out the shortened affair.

“All three pitched really well,” Berry said. “We’ve got a young staff, but they’re experienced.”

And it is doubtful if Berry will ever run out of arms this season. In addition to Monday night’s rotation, the Eagles have junior Patrick Pope returning from an impressive sophomore season, along with fellow juniors Hampton Caughman and Austin Knox, who also straps on the catcher’s gear for the Eagles. The rest of the staff is made up entirely of sophomores – Cameron Cooper, Matt Taylor and Elijah Tucker. Taylor also serves as catcher and will play a little infield, as will Caughman and Branham.

Corey Davis, Ron Price and Reid Johnson return as seniors in the Eagle outfield this season, and junior Zach Bowens will also see time behind the plate.

“Knox, as a freshman, was Region Player of the Year,” Berry said. “We’re looking for him to have a good season, and we’re looking for Davis to be one of our better hitters this year. All in all, we’ve got a lot of guys who are getting stronger, getting better, and we’re looking for them to produce for us.”

Berry is also looking to occasionally bring up promising freshmen from the JV crew to help the team along and give the younger ball players more experience, on the mound and in the field. Jacob Steele, Coker Gilbert and John Coleman will gain some varsity experience this season, with Steele and Gilbert in the infield and Coleman in the outfield. All three could also get some work on the hill.

Berry said his team is approaching the next level of play, and he expects a great outcome in 2013.

“A lot of that stuff we’ve worked on for the last two years – base running, the cutoff system – we’re polishing those things up now,” Berry said. “We’re more intense when we play, but also more relaxed. All of those baseball intangibles.”

The Eagles continue their season tonight at home against Cardinal Newman at 7 p.m.

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