Vikings Ready for Summer League
After a brief break, third-year head coach Chad Hill and Union Pines' baseball will return to the diamond in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League (CCSSL) season opener.
Monday, the Vikings play host to the Southern Lee Cavaliers in a doubleheader, with the jayvees starting at 4 p.m., followed directly by the junior varsity game.
It is Union Pines' second year participating in the CCSSL. Before that Union Pines traditionally fielded an American Legion team, but Hill feels that the school-based summer league is a better fit for his program.
"I was glad that we played CCSSL instead of legion ball last year," Hill said, "mainly because we were able to evaluate rising ninth through 12th graders. I also like the free substitution rule for the JV team because it gives all of our guys the opportunity to play and hit each time out."
Both Union Pines' teams will play a total of 15 games over a five week span. While Hill admits the schedule can be demanding, he feels it can be a very rewarding one was well.
"It will definitely be a busy five weeks for everyone," he said. "The best thing from the players' standpoint is that they get to play a bunch of baseball. If a kid has a bad night, he does not have to sit around for three or four days, he gets to come to the park and play a new game the next day. "While it was tough to get in a ton of instruction, last year the guys did a great job of getting to games early for work and listening as we took them to the side to explain why we should have done something another way."
This years' summer league also gives the Vikings a chance to start with a clean slate and build for the future after a shaky 2009 campaign.
With a league record of 4-5 and an overall mark of 5-7, Union Pines had an eight-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The Vike did close out the year with wins in their final two Cape Fear Valley (CFV) conference contests to finish in sixth place in the league at 6-9 and ended with an overall record of 8-15 on the season.
This past season was the second straight in which Union Pines failed to qualify for the state playoffs. In Hill's first year he led the Vikings to the most successful season in school history. The 2007 Vikes went 20-5, were the CFV champions and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.
The Vikings had nine seniors on this year's roster. Many of them earned post season honors for the Vikes this year. Senior Adam Harward received the Union Pines Coaches Award. Senior centerfielder and captain Justin Blackburn was named the team's MVP and was the lone Vike All-conference selection. He was also named to the CFV conference All-academic team along with Union Pines' freshman Nic Collins.
Senior shortstop Nevin Wilson was the team MVP, while Colby Thomas won the Vike award for Most Improved Player.
One of the reasons Hill feels the CCSSL is most beneficial is because it gives him a chance to become familiar with all the players in the Viking program, so that as a coach he will have a better understanding of what awaits come spring.
"The young guys were very eager to learn and play on the high school level last summer," Hill said, "and hopefully that will ring true again. This experience can go to a long way in helping them figure out how things are a little different in high school. It is a true trial by fire for the guys. The best part is that in the offseason they can use the knowledge they gained to really work on the things they struggled with during the summer and be ready to roll come February."
Hill also strongly feels the intensive nature of the CCSSL is not just beneficial to his ballplayers alone.
"Once we conclude the season," Hill said, "our coaching staff can use these games as a good evaluation tool. Regardless of how good as everyone may do this summer, we don't want anyone to hit a plateau; we want them to constantly be taking strides forward."
All Viking home dates will begin with a jayvee game at 4 p.m. at Union Pines High School, in Cameron, followed by a varsity contest at 6 p.m.
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Schedule (jayvee 4 p.m., varsity 6 p.m. unless indicated otherwise): June 15 Southern Lee; 16 at Scotland (5 & 7 p.m.); 18 Pinecrest; 22 (JV) at Pinecrest, (Varsity) at Village Christian Academy (5:30 p.m.); 23 (JV) Fayetteville Christian, (Varsity) Hoke; 25 (JV) Grays Creek, (Varsity) South View; 29 Richmond Sr.; 30 at Southern Lee (5 & 7 p.m.); July 2 (JV) at Southern Lee (5 p.m.), (Varsity) Scotland; 6 at Pinecrest; 7 (JV only) at Southern Lee (5 p.m.) 9 (JV) at Pinecrest, (Varsity) at Hoke (7p.m.); 13 (JV) at Fayetteville Christian (5 p.m.), (Varsity) at South View (7 p.m.); 14 at Richmond Sr. (5 & 7 p.m.); 16 Western Harnett 16
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