PHS Nine Open With Forsyth Country Day
Speaking about Wednesday’s 5 p.m. baseball season opener at John Williams Field, Pinecrest coach Jeff Hewitt advises fans to arrive early.
Ranked No. 2 in 4A in the Impact Baseball preseason poll, the Patriots are scheduled to meet Forsyth Country Day, the No. 2 team in the 3A private school rankings. The probable starting pitchers are UNC commits — Dillon Maples, of the Patriots, and Adam Griffin, of the Furies from Lewisville.
The 30 major league scouts that Hewitt estimates attended Thursday’s scrimmage at Northwood should be back with their radar guns, focusing on two pitchers that throw in the 90s.
“People who love baseball and Pinecrest baseball — we all sit around the window in the cold weather waiting for the baseball season to start,” Hewitt says. “Now it’s here and the excitement is back.
“I think this group will be exciting to watch, especially anytime Dillon or Vech (Joey Vecchione) are on the mound. You’re going to see a hard fastball, you’re going to see radars lighting up, the excitement of the music and a game being played the way it should be by the kids.”
Maples is coming off a summer that included pitching for the U.S. National team at the 18-and-under World Championships in Canada and in the AFLAC High School All-Star game in San Diego. He is considered to be a potential early round pick in the June Major League Amateur Draft.
The 6-foot-3 junior right-hander was 8-2 for the 2010 Southeastern Conference regular season and conference tournament champion Patriots. He allowed only 15 hits and struck out 117 batters in 58 2/3 innings with an ERA of 0.95.
“He’s played for his country and that was a lot of pressure,” Hewitt said. “He’s the guy that keeps everybody loose, and he’s also the guy everybody really looks toward.”
Continuing with the pitching side of the ledger, Vecchione is slated for the No. 2 spot after posting a 2-2 record last season with a 3.38 ERA. Hewitt envisions left-hander Tristan Helms, one of two freshmen on the varsity roster, as a pitcher like 2010 grad Zach Christian, who can keep batters off balance with changes in speed.
Maples, Vecchione and Helms combined to pitch seven innings of hitless baseball in the scrimmage at Northwood.
Senior Evan Guy, a slider, sinkerball pitcher, and varsity newcomer Weston Phillips, a junior, complete the staff. Junior Bryce Owen succeeds graduated three-year starter Trent Fredericks behind the plate.
The leader of a veteran infield corps is shortstop Bailey Rush. The left-handed hitting and Citadel-bound senior brings soft hands and a .309 batting average from last season. Junior Cam Embler, a contact hitter with speed, is the starter at second base and one of the candidates to lead off.
Depending on who is pitching, the corners will be occupied by Vecchione, a .279 hitter last season, at third base, and Maples, a .349 batter with five home runs, at first. Hard-hitting junior Matt Eddy is slated to play first base when Maples is pitching, and he will also be one of the team’s designated hitter options.
In the outfield, senior right fielder Evan Guy batted .384 last season. Leftfielder Pat Moore, another senior, is expected to return to the form that produced a batting average of .390 as a sophomore. Helms is slated to get the start in center.
A versatile roster includes players like juniors Alan Watson, Morgan Van Camp and Justin Mace who provide depth in both the infield and outfield, along with senior outfielder Jacob Thomas and infielders Phillips and Austin Embler, a freshman with a live bat.
Hewitt looks for Scotland County, Richmond Senior and Lumberton to be the main contenders to unseat the Patriots as conference champions.
“When I think of this team, I think of senior leadership,” the coach said. “This group of seniors has played a lot of baseball together. This is something they’ve been waiting for a long time. It shows in practice, and the younger guys have fallen right in with it. I think you’ll see a team that is scrappy and plays for each other.”
Beginning his 12th season at Pinecrest, Hewitt will be the head coach of the U.S. National U14 Team that competes at the Pan American Championships in Venezuela in July. His varsity Patriot coaching staff includes Roger Woolard, Chuck Perry, James Baldwin and Dan Coles. The jayvee coaches are Eric Coles, Bill Permakoff and Bob Stefanich. There will be no freshman team this year.
Forsyth Country Day boasts three other players that have signed with Div. I schools in George Carter (UNC), Brandon Culbreth (N.C. State) and Seth Constable (South Carolina). Pinecrest has three sets of brothers in the baseball program: Dillon and Jackson Maples, Cam and Austin Embler, and Weston and Hunter Phillips.
Contact Charlie Bergmann at email@example.com.
Schedule – Mar. 2 Forsyth Country Day; 4 at Riverside (Durham Athletic Park); 8 Asheboro; 10 at Southern Lee; 11 Riverside; 14 at Asheboro (McCrary Park); 15 Hoke; 18 Lumberton; 19 Florida Christian (at Lee County); 22 Scotland; 25 at Purnell Swett; 31, April 1-2 at Hilltop Invitational (Orange H.S.); 5 at Richmond; 7 at Apex; 8 at Lumberton; 12 at Scotland; 15 Purnell Swett; 19 Richmond; 21 Lee County; 25 at Union Pines; 26 Southern Lee; 29 at Hoke; May 3-5 conference tournament.
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