When the JV Fighting Scots’ 2012 regular season ended this past May, head coach Michael Sellers asked each of his returning players (nine in all) to simply work on one thing in the off-season: getting better.
And after the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League season concluded Wednesday night with a 10-6 win over Pinecrest, Sellers was prepared with a list of player names that have already showed massive improvement in just two short months.
“A lot of players in summer leagues want to just play and have fun, but I wanted my guys to play, have fun and learn something as well,” said Sellers, whose 14-player JV squad when 9-1-1 during the CCSSL season. “Based on what I’ve seen from them early on, I think they’ve grown a lot in a short time and I can’t wait watch these kids play for the Scots when the regular season starts.”
The JV Scots’ pitching staff went 8-1 as a collective unit during summer league play, with several names jumping to the forefront in Sellers’ eyes as players to watch come next season. Matt Caviness was the workhorse for the Fighting Scots, leading all Scotland pitchers in innings pitched (18.1, six more innings than the next highest tally) and amount of games played (five), compiling a 1.91 ERA in the process. Brandon Gibson and Grant English also shined on the mound, as each compiled sub-.200 ERAs in a minimum of eight innings pitched. And, in his first experience on the JV squad, Justin Ingram also came on strong near the end of the season, including his most recent outing against North Moore where he struck out four of the six batters he faced.
But when he looks at who will anchor the starting rotation in 2013, one name immediately jumps to mind for Sellers.
“Logan House showed me this summer that he’s quickly morphing into a dominant number one pitcher for this staff,” Sellers said. In 12 innings pitched, House struck out 11 batters (tied for the team lead with Caviness) and led the entire team with a 0.58 ERA.
“Along with Grant (English), I now know that I’ll have at least two guys at the top of my rotation that can give this team a chance to win night in and night out,” he said.
A balanced mix of base-running speed, run production and timely hitting were also on display this summer for the JV Scots, and in terms of maturity, Sellers believes that his players grew the most inside the batter’s box. The JV Scots as a whole averaged a .316 batting average and an on base percentage (OBP) of .439. Sam Grey was Scotland’s most prolific hitter from a statistical perspective, going 10 for 20 with five doubles and three triples as he split time between the JV and Varsity rosters. In terms of potential, Sellers sees a future power-hitter in Ben Utter and also believes that Amad Monley’s speed will translate into numerous big-time defensive plays and runs scored once he harnesses his full ability. And catcher Cody Stewart has also demonstrated his growing discipline on both sides of the ball, leading the team in walks (six) and having numerous throw-outs to his credit on opposing base-runners.
But it’s the growth in Jonathan Bowling’s plate approach that has impressed Sellers in particular, as the coach has seen a sizable leap in his performance compared to last year.
“Jonathan has been getting better and better, and he did way better this year than last,” Sellers said. Bowling saw more plate appearances than any other JV Scot this season (37), and also led the team in runs scored (13) while also tying Grey for the most hits as well (10).
“He’s really learning how to handle the bat well, and I’ve really enjoyed watching his development in just these few short weeks,” he said.
While the varsity Fighting Scots prepare for the CCSSL playoffs, which start Monday evening at Terry Sanford, the regular summer season will be all-she-wrote for the JV Scots until the team suits up in the spring semester of next year. It’s been an exhausting but satisfying haul for Sellers and the JV Scots’ coaching staff, with Sellers having spent 28 consecutive days at various baseball parks training and mentoring his players.
And while he intends on enjoying the remainder of his summer vacation before Scotland fall sports heat up, Sellers can hang his hat on the fact that it appears that he’s all set for the baseball season despite it being months away.
“When I told these guys to ‘get better’, it meant improving their fundamentals, overall approach to the game and making the most of the opportunities they’re given,” Sellers said. “To this coaching staff, it appears they’ve done exactly that. Now hopefully I can get a bit of a break!”