Area’s full of high-quality pitching for 2013 season


Hoggard's starting pitcher Bryan Sammons silences North Brunswick as the Vikings quickly put 2 on the board in the second inning Tuesday night at North Brunswick. (Photo by Jeff Janowski)


Get out the radar guns.

There’s an abundance of pitching for high school baseball teams in Southeastern North Carolina this spring. There are flamethrowers and junk-ballers, righties and lefties, college signees and rising stars.

“Every team’s got one or two pitchers that are going to be pitching at the next level or have a chance to pitch at the next level,” Ashley coach Brian Stewart said. “Night in and night out, you’re going to see a quality arm on the mound. Runs will be hard to come by.”

Stewart is speaking from experience – Ashley returns almost its entire rotation, including college-bound pitchers Matt Davis and Eric Eason, both to Charlotte. Sam Cavenaugh returns, as does Pante Miliotis, who went 8-1 last season despite topping out at 82 mph with his fastball.

“We feel pretty good about that,” Stewart said. “But in the same breath, everybody in our league is going to be kind of like that.”

Laney’s collection of arms all returns from last year, and New Hanover’s rotation includes lefties Josh Rogers and Tyree Johnson and right-hander Ward Coleman. Rose and New Bern both return solid staffs.

But nobody is quite as loaded as Hoggard. The Vikings have a bona fide ace in NC State signee Joe O’Donnell, a Western Carolina signee in Bryan Sammons, and Gregg Trotta, second on the team in strikeouts last season. All three are seniors, and O’Donnell might be the most exciting pitcher in the area. By the end of last season, he was throwing in the low 90s.

“We’re excited just to see how they’ve developed and so forth,” Hoggard coach Jeep St. Ledger said. “They’ve all got stronger in the offseason. We’re looking forward to it.”

That’s an exciting formula for local teams to have, especially since the area has produced state champions in each of the past three seasons, and all in different classifications: Laney in 2010 (4A), East Columbus in 2011 (1A), and Whiteville in 2012 (2A). The Wolfpack won last year while relying on senior Nathan Hood, who also has committed to NC State.

“It’s nice to have a kid that’s got that much experience and that’s capable of giving you seven innings, and, possibly, two more,” Whiteville coach Brett Harwood said. “We’re definitely going to have to ride Nathan’s arm.”

The pitching depth and strength also means that teams are eyeing small-ball tactics to squeeze a few runs across. Avoiding mistakes defensively is also a point of emphasis, knowing that there will likely be fewer runs scored.

“When you know you’re facing a power guy, I don’t think we will adjust our offensive game plan so much as we’ll all play to give us a chance to win,” New Hanover coach Richard Foy said. “That’s the thing: if they get three or four runs in the first two innings, it’ll be tough.”

 Despite the concern about scoring, having an experienced and talented pitching staff is a helpful luxury, and one local teams will try to exploit.

“We know that we’ve got the guys that have experience  on the mound,” Stewart said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to handle their part and hopefully we can handle things behind them.”



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