Maples Continues to Build Upward
Pinecrest pitching coach James Baldwin watched intently as right-hander Dillon Maples allowed just one hit and struck out 17 batters in Thursday’s 9-1 victory over Richmond Senior in the Southeastern Conference tournament finale held at a jam-packed John Williams Field.
“Dillon didn’t have his best, but the good thing about having Dillon is he goes out and competes,” Baldwin, an 11-year Major League pitcher, said. “When the people hear Dillon Maples’ name, they’ve already geared themselves up to get a hit. They’re as fired up as we are.”
The junior, who is verbally committed to UNC, had little trouble after a rocky third inning when the Raiders scored their run and got their only hit, a solid single to center by Corey Wallace. Maples faced the minimum 13 batters over the last four and a third innings, striking out 11 of them.
“The later Dillon goes in the game, the more tired he gets, the better he becomes,” Baldwin said. “That’s because he becomes a pitcher instead of a thrower. He’s done a tremendous job for us so far, but now is the big dance. Now is the time to focus on what we’ve fought all year for.”
At the beginning of the season, Patriot coach Jeff Hewitt was concerned that the large number of people sitting in the new bleachers behind the backstop might make some of his players nervous.
Maples was asked what he was thinking, looking at the approximately 500 fans shoe-horned into that area for the championship game.
“I didn’t really look up until the second inning,” he said. “I think it’s unbelievable that a high school can bring in that many people. It was really impressive.”
Center fielder James Baldwin III stole a base, raising his season total to 16. The 25 home runs hit by the Patriots are the most in a season for the team in at least the last 11 years. Baldwin leads the team with seven, Maples has hit five, and the three-run blast by Trent Fredericks in Thursday’s game was the catcher’s fourth. The 2004 squad had 23 circuit clouts led by Taylor Norfleet with eight.
The Patriots have gone 5-0 this season against their longtime rivals, beating Richmond three times and Scotland County twice.
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