by Andrew Stark
Last season, Charlotte Country Day reached the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association baseball finals but lost to Forsyth Country Day. In 2010, the Bucs and Charlotte Christian made the semifinals, but High Point Wesleyan was the eventual champion.
No south Charlotte school has won the title since 2009, when the Knights were victorious. However, area teams have been a mainstay on the championship podium, with the Knights winning eight titles from 2000 to 2009 and Charlotte Latin taking the championship in 2001.
Could this be the year the NCISAA title returns to Charlotte?
The Knights enter the playoffs with arguably the best shot to win the state championship. Charlotte Christian won the title each year from 2002 to 2007, so coach Greg Simmons certainly knows what type of team it takes to win. He feels his 2012 squad might have what it takes.
The Knights got a first-round bye last season but were knocked out in the second round. This year, at 26-6, the Knights are poised to return to dominance.
They’re led by a strong pitching staff that features ace Bailey Ober (8-1 with a 1.10 ERA). Ober has already thrown a no-hitter against Concord Cannon on March 29 and struck out 61 batters is 57 1/3 innings. Will Stillman (4-1, 2.16 ERA) has 52 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings.
Matt Simmons has belted a team-high eight home runs and has 27 RBIs. Thomas Nantz is hitting .421 with 40 hits, 28 runs scored and 25 RBIs, and Ober sports a .337 average with eight doubles.
Simmons said the Knights’ formula for success is pretty basic going forward.
“It’s as simple as throwing, catching and hitting,” Simmons said. “And to win it all, we must do those three things more consistently than the other guys.”
Charlotte Country Day
The Bucs enter the playoffs with a 13-9 record, and coach Mike Hennessey hopes strong senior leadership and unselfish play will propel them deep into the tournament again.
Pitcher Drew Loepprich is 8-1, with his only loss coming to Ardrey Kell, and maintains a 2.12 ERA. Through 44 innings, he had 47 strikeouts and just 11 walks.
At the plate, shortstop Patrick Brady leads the team with 22 walks, 10 stolen bases and is batting .392. Reavis Ford and slugger Colin Walls also have been solid.
Hennessey believes that if the Bucs focus on improving the little things, they could present postseason matchup problems.
“(I want to) be more consistent defensively and cut down on the extra bases we allow the other team,” Hennessey said. “If we take care of the baseball, we will be successful.”
Even with the loss of Davidson signee Andrew Pope, who was batting .303 before suffering a season-ending injury, the Chargers (19-8) still have four players batting better than .300 and are hitting .297 as a team.
Daniel Stack leads the Chargers with a .400 batting average. Monroe Donnelly is hitting .347, Tim Mansfield (.341) has a team-high three triples and 10 doubles, and Zach Featherstone (.317) leads the squad with four homers.
On the mound, Featherstone is 6-2 with 47 strikeouts and a stellar 0.97 ERA. Kendall Hughes and Shaun McConougey are a combined 3-2 and have logged 53 1/3 innings. Stack, the closer, is 1-1 with two saves.
“(We must) take care of the baseball (by) being fundamentally sound, be more consistent on defense and continue hitting the baseball,” coach Jim Cerbie said.
The Hawks went 6-15 under first-year coach Kim Cousar. If they get into the state tournament, the Hawks can be dangerous with North Carolina recruit Michael Massardo and Oglethorpe (Ga.) University commit Sam Franklin.