Vikes Optimistic After Summer League
Summer baseball may be over, and the varsity season nearly eight months away, but Union Pines baseball coach Chad Hill is excited for the future.
"Now that summer ball is finished," Hill said, "I am as excited as ever about the future of our program here at Union Pines. We have a great group of kids in terms of attitudes and the desire to continue to get better every day. I look forward to having the privilege of coaching these guys the next few years and seeing what we can accomplish if we continue to improve each day out on the diamond."
The Viking baseball team recently wrapped up its second season in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League. As one of only two 3A schools in their league, the Vikes finished with a record of 4-8.
"We made some very good strides this summer and actually saw quite a few guys play in different positions, which will mean a lot of competition for spots, come tryouts in February."
One area where Hill was especially impressed with his team's growth was offensively. After a slow start, the Viking hitters ended the summer league season with a .306 team batting average.
"We challenged our hitters (all summer) to take a solid approach to the plate each at bat," said Hill. "We gave them counts in which they had to focus hard mentally to accomplish the task at hand, and in the end they made great strides."
Hill said he was especially pleased with the way his team improved its overall batting average with two strikes.
Nic Collins, a rising sophomore catcher for Union Pines, led the team with a .608 batting average to go along with 11 RBIs. Justin Allred, another rising sophomore, led the Vikes with 15 RBIs, batted .313 and hit two homers. Keaton Thomas led the Vikings with 11 runs scored to go along with a .424 batting average, while infielder Justin Wilson batted .394 with seven runs and six RBIs. Gabe Gonzalez had 11 RBIS, scored nine runs and finished with a batting average of .482 in the leadoff spot.
"Allred came up in big RBI situations all summer," Hill said, "and seemed to deliver night in and night out as did Collins, who was seeing the ball startling well. Gonzalez and Keaton Thomas really seemed like spark plugs at the top of our order. Both guys hit over .400, which meant that our big RBI guys had chances when they stepped to the plate.
"Most nights we started four rising sophomores, which means that there are some spots that are definitely open for battle through the fall and winter workouts."
The Viking pitching staff was anchored by rising senior Colby Thomas and rising junior Carson Kelly. Thomas appeared in eight of 11 games, had a 2-0 record and allowed three earned runs in 17.2 innings of work. He started, pitched middle relief and served as a part-time closer.
"He (Thomas) worked really hard," Hill said, "and set the tone every night with our pitching staff. Carson (Kelly) also threw really well as a starter; so he will definitely be in the mix to possibly be a conference starter next season."
Kelly went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA over the summer, including a shutout win versus Hoke County when he struck out eight.
Contact F. W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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