King's Fork sophomore utility player Cal Bailey practices his pitching at the end of a preseason practice on Thursday at King's Fork High School. Bailey will be a one of the younger contributors on a senior-laden 2013 Bulldog team.
King's Fork sophomore utility player Cal Bailey practices his pitching at the end of a preseason practice on Thursday at King's Fork High School. Bailey will be a one of the younger contributors on a senior-laden 2013 Bulldog team.

KFHS baseball feels ready

Published 10:53pm Thursday, February 28, 2013

The King’s Fork baseball team is hoping to cash in this season on a lot of time invested in offseason training.

Last year, the Bulldogs went 2-18 overall and 2-16 in the Southeastern district.

“We’ve been working pretty hard, so I feel like it will be an improvement from last year,” senior pitcher/catcher Marcus Welch said.

“I feel like we have a lot better team, and we’ve been training really, really hard for the past year, hoping to make (the) district (tournament) this year,” sophomore utility player Cal Bailey said.

Head coach Pat Stafford returns for his second year as head coach and detailed what the extensive offseason was like for his team.

“Right when the season actually ended last year, we went straight into a summer baseball program where we played for eight weeks over the summer, kept the guys together, playing two games a week,” he said. “We took August off, then September we got right straight into a fall program, where we did the same thing again, practicing two days a week, playing two games a week. And then we took a couple weeks off and went straight into offseason conditioning, offseason hitting in December.”

Stafford got the head coaching job within two weeks of the 2012 season beginning. This year, he feels more confident as a coach of these players.

“With me being with the guys a year, I know who they are, I know how to push them certain ways, I know each individual player, the personalities, I know where they can play, I know what they can do, I know what it takes to try to get them to excel this year,” he said.

The team has also been working on strengthening its biggest weakness from last year.

“We’re really working hard on defense,” Stafford said. “That’s been one of the key things this year, is really keeping our defense strong where we can limit our errors. The biggest thing that killed us last year was our errors and pitching, we had a lot of walks on the mound last year, and we gave up a lot of unnecessary runs last year.”

Welch will be counted on to deliver in multiple positions.

“He’s going to be our standout pitcher on the mound this year,” Stafford said. “He (has) a consistent low-80 (miles per hour) fastball, he’ll get up (to) about 84, 85. Pretty good curve ball.”

He will also be the team’s starting catcher, with Cal Bailey catching when Welch pitches. Additionally, Welch is an effective hitter who had the most walks on the team last year, putting him in the running for a decent spot in the lineup this season.

Senior third baseman Danny Gromkoski, a recent Averett University-commit, will be a go-to hitter.

“He played on a showcase team, the Mid Atlantic Pirates, this past summer and got a lot of exposure to a lot of colleges and really kind of stepped his game up facing a lot better competition,” Stafford said. “He was our best bat last year. He had the highest batting average on our team.”

Senior centerfielder Noah Johnson will provide his speed in the outfield that recently helped him place 14th in the state for the 300-meter dash. Stafford expects him to soon commit to a Division I school.

“He’s an outstanding defensive outfielder,” Stafford said. “He’s pretty solid out there. I wouldn’t trade anybody for him out there as far as tracking balls down. I believe he’s one of the best in the district as far as that goes. He’s going to probably be our lead-off (batter).”

Stafford also highlighted a newcomer to the varsity team, junior Coty Ward.

“He’s really stepped up,” he said. “He played shortstop (for junior varsity) last year. He’s going to be kind of a player to watch this season. He’s put on 15 pounds in the past six, seven months as far as working out and stuff like that. He’s going to be probably our main starting shortstop this year.”

“We really have a chance to be really competitive, I think, this year,” Stafford said. “It’s just going to take the belief that we can do it.”

King’s Fork begins its season at home on March 12 against Deep Creek.

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