WENDELL — The East Wake baseball squad hopes to will its way to a successful 2014 season through powerful performances at the plate.
In his third season with the Warriors, head coach Derek Matthews believes his team must feature a potent offense – specifically skilled hitting – in order to win more than just a handful of games this season. East Wake only won five games in 2013, while dropping 17 contests (4-10 Greater Neuse River 4A).
“I think we’re going to be a better offensive team this year,” Matthews said. “From what I’ve seen so far, we’re going to have a solid defense, and we’re probably going to see a bit better offense than we were last year.”
For the sake of his Warriors, Matthews had better hope his early read on things is accurate. East Wake barely eclipsed 100 runs scored in 22 games played last season – a paltry per game average of 4.9 runs. Opponents outscored the Warriors by a total of 65 runs in 2013.
The top of East Wake’s batting order will not be loaded. Instead, Matthews says his team will feature a more balanced lineup. The aim, of course, is to assemble a more consistent attack and improve upon last year’s deficiencies.
“We’re not going to be down in that seven-eight-nine hole this year,” Matthews said. “There probably aren’t going to be many standouts; we’ll just be solid one-through-nine.”
The Warriors may be devoid of superstars, but not of leadership. Although they are without a team captain, a group of five seniors is expected to guide the squad of 15 varsity-level ballplayers.
Center fielder Cody Alphin was the first senior mentioned as most likely to assume a team leadership role. Alphin posted a .291 batting average and led the team in doubles (3) last season, while also grinding out a triple and knocking out a home run.
“I hope (Alphin) is going to be one of my big hitters this year,” Matthews said.
Matthews also mentioned catcher Austin Dickens, whose position behind the plate naturally lends itself to a leadership role. Dickens and third baseman Adam Winegar, both seniors, combined for 25 runs batted in as juniors.
“It’s pretty much the seniors’ team,” Matthews said, deflecting a healthy amount of responsibility on the oldest members of his squad. “All the seniors are pretty much in charge.”
Matthews doesn’t see this as a potential issue. He claims his Warriors possess a sound chemistry.
“This group has been together for a while,” he said. “They’ve been together ever since I got here, when they were JVers. They’ve all come up through summer ball, so they’ve all played together for a while.”
Adding to that chemistry is a helpful head start. Even with wintry weather pounding the Triangle area in February, the Warriors haven’t had to delay much of their early practices. They took part in their first scrimmage – at Heritage, versus Heritage and Bunn – on Feb. 20.
They’re already looking forward, too. A few games on the schedule that have caught Matthews’ eye are East Wake’s impending battles with Garner, Harnett Central and Clayton – three teams expected to be the class of the conference in 2014.
The first pitch of East Wake’s regular season will be thrown this Thursday, Feb. 27, when the Warriors host Smithfield-Selma on their home diamond, Saber Field.