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Back on the diamond
Varsity baseball teams begin play this week
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Zach Alvord slides into third base ahead of the tag by infielder Andrew Barna during a South Forsyth intra-squad scrimmage game on Wednesday at the War Eagles’ field. - photo by Emily Saunders
John Fogarty sang about a beat-up glove, a homemade bat and a brand new pair of shoes in his ode to America’s pastime, “Center Field.”

Hopefully the equipment will be a little nicer when Forsyth County teams streak from the dugout and begin a new baseball season this week, but some of Fogarty’s other lyrics might accurately describe the players’ pent-up energy, namely “Put me in, coach! I’m ready to play today.”

There will be plenty of fresh faces ready to play at Forsyth Central this season, along with a new head coach. Kevin McCollum enters his first season at the helm with only a few varsity veterans on hand, while the team will have three freshmen on the varsity roster to start the season.

“It’s going to be a whole new, fresh lineup out there,” McCollum said.

McCollum thinks that the Bulldogs, despite their relative inexperience, have a good chance of stacking up well against the rest of Region 6-AAAA in their first season back in the region.

“I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t get ourselves in the top four and make the playoffs, to be honest,” McCollum said.

Returning to the Bulldog varsity are a trio of seniors in center fielder Dustin Canon, Kevin Sams behind the plate and pitcher/outfielder Chad Thomason. Junior Trey Mills will also pitch and likely see some time in the infield.

“He swings a pretty good stick,” McCollum said of Mills.

Taylor Bradford will definitely be in the lineup, McCollum said, but could find himself moving from third base to first or the designated hitter spot.

“I’m sure Taylor’s going to swing it for us, I just don’t know he’ll be at third base all year,” the coach said.

Some new faces will be senior Doug Scherer, who will see time on the mound and in the outfield, and junior shortstop Benton Stoutmire.

McCollum says he hopes this season will restore some excitement to the program, which struggled to win in Class AAAAA.

“We can get a lot better this year. ... I think if we take care of the things we can control this year, we could end up with a pretty solid squad at the end.”

Coming into their second season, West Forsyth’s baseball team doesn’t feature a ton of experience, but there will be four senior Wolverines out on the diamond this season.

“I like the balance we’ve got in numbers as far as the class positioning goes,” coach Byron Orr said, noting that the team also features a handful of juniors and four sophomores.

Junior Chris Rubessa is likely to start behind the plate, with junior Tommy Ferguson, a Northview transfer, at third base and freshman Brent Odum at shortstop. Sophomore Brodie Orr is slated to start at first, while the second base slot comes down to sophomore Harold Earls or junior Joey Moran. Jared Horowitz could see some time at third, as well as on the mound.

The team has five true outfielders, according to the coach, led by sophomore left fielder Will Canady, senior center fielder Chris Arnett and senior right fielder Michael Moch. Juniors Reese Patten and Colton Orr will also see time in the outfield.

Moch, Horowitz, Brodie Orr, and Patten will see time on the mound, along with senior Joey Wood and junior Ryan Wood. Freshman Blake Burkett and sophomore Joey Carnaroli could also log some innings, the coach said.

At the plate, coach Orr says that Rubessa, Ferguson and Arnett all have “a little pop” and could provide some offensive spark.

“I think we’re a better team than we were last year, but until we play some games and prove it, you know how it is,” the coach said.

“We’re still youthful. ... We’ll make a few boneheaded base-running mistakes, ... but I think the blueprint to have a decent team is there.”

With a long 24-game schedule in Region 7-AAA, Orr says a few region losses are to be expected.

“If you can have less than eight losses in this league, you’re going to be in the playoffs.”

Two consecutive state playoff trips in Region 7-AAAAA have raised the profile for the South Forsyth program (ranked No. 5 in the Preseason Coaches Poll) in recent years, and coach Jamie Corr hopes a strong core of talented seniors will help continue that trend this year.

“We’d like to continue our recent run of success, and we really will look to the veterans to provide the leadership necessary to bring the young guys along,” Corr said.

“The nucleus of our team has gained vauable experience in the playoffs the past two seasons and knows what it takes down the stretch to get there.”

Among that nucleus will be seniors Chris Rowley and Kevin Bibler, anchoring the starting rotation for the War Eagles. Senior Curtis Parker and junior Zach Alvord will also see some starts on the mound, while senior right-hander Jack Stout will make his varsity debut with South this year.

Senior Chase Fowler marks his third year behind the plate for South. Senior shortstop Jordan Neese and Alvord at second base will provide what Corr describes as a great middle infield combination, while Parker and senior Andrew Barna will share time at first base, with sophomore Caden Bailey on third.

Corr says the outfield will be anchored by Keith Grabowski in center, with Salem Collins, Patrick Olvaney and Matt Corbin surrounding him in left and right.

Newcomers to the varsity include junior infielder Taylor Parker, junior right-hander Tyler Kubiak, and a pair of senior relievers in Alex Kriss and Nick Ciupak.

Up in Coal Mountain, experience won’t be an issue, as North Forsyth welcomes back 13 seniors, including catcher Bones Dalken, last year’s co-player of the year in Region 7-AAAAA.

Catcher Matt Cline, Alex Cruz, who pitches, catches and plays outfield, infielders Will Foster, Taylor McGilvray, and David Sanders, outfielder Matt Fuentes, infielder and catcher Brett Hanna, Jonah Howell, who pitches and plays first base and outfield, pitcher and first baseman Brandon Rogers, and pitchers Sam Washington, Zach Harbin and Robby Williams are the other seniors on the Raider roster.

The Raiders have a handful of three-year starters, which coach Jim Cahill thinks will be a plus.

“If you have that experience, it definitely helps,” he said.

Cahill said that sophomore outfielders Tyler Riddle and Colton Wagoner will also be expected to contribute.

Alex Joplin and Casey Hanna, both sophomores, will also join the veterans on the mound this season.

After a 2008 season that saw North come within one game of the state playoffs, Cahill sees this year as coming down to strength on the mound.

“Our region is so tough, it’s going to come down to pitching. We’ve got some guys with experience and some guys that will get their feet wet this year. The teams with consistent pitching in our region are going to get in [the playoffs],” the coach said.

E-mail BJ Corbitt at