EASTERN WAKE COUNTY — During the spring, neither Knightdale, nor East Wake considered their respective baseball season as a success.
The Warriors missed out on the playoffs and the Knights made it to the playoffs, but did so with a below .500 record and were unable to advance to the second round for the third straight year.
Baseball practices and games in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League begin for both teams this week. Their coaches plan to take a relaxed approach to building squads that have the ability to compete in the Greater Neuse River Conference next season – and the chemistry to do so.
“I’m looking forward to having two teams this season and just seeing what we have,” Knightdale coach Andrew Vaglio said. “Last year, we didn’t have a (junior varsity) team, so it should just be fun to see how the players respond to one another and who steps up.”
Vaglio was left with a sour taste in his mouth after seeing his team fall to New Bern, 3-0, in the spring playoffs due to fielding errors and a failure to hit with runners in scoring position.
With seniors like Dylon Alexander, Trey Wall and Adonis Williams graduating, Vaglio knows he goes into the summer needing to replace some big bats and a starting pitcher that he trusted during every outing.
“Those are not easy shoes to fill,” Vaglio said. “But we have Garrett Wall, Logan Anderson and Nick Pope and a handful of others who can step right in and hopefully take over.
“I think that whole group will be very important to our success.”
As for the Warriors, coach Derek Matthews is planning to take a more hands-on approach in his second summer with the team.
One of the biggest changes for Matthews will be moving from the third-base coaching role to staying inside of the dugout during games, which should allow him to see how his team interacts throughout the game.
“Last year, I was still trying to feel out my team and see what we had,” Matthews said. “This time around, I want to spend more time in the dugout to make sure our players are getting proper instruction. The summer is much more relaxed, so I just want to spend as much time around them as I can.”
While players like Paschal Ammons plan to play Legion baseball, younger players including Coley Mizzell, who played with varsity last year, and Marquez Holden, who will likely move up to the varsity level this year, will have an entire summer under Matthews.
One of East Wake's main areas of focus this summer will be timely hitting. The Warriors were never shut out in the spring, but they lost four games by two runs or less.
“We’re going to teach hitting this summer,” Matthews said emphatically. “It’s hard to change somebody in the middle of a season, like timing or stances. But if we work on it in the summer and all fall, we should have everyone ready in the spring when we really need it.”