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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  • RBailey

    Let me start by saying that I am very proud of my son, Cal, for what he has done on and off the baseball field. His hard work over the past few years is starting to pay off. He shows up for practice every day, and he does what is asked of him to do by his coaches no matter what sport he is playing, Baseball, Indoor Track or Volleyball. That alone speaks for itself. I am very proud of Noah Johnson for what he has done for Cal. Noah and his father, Kenny, played a big part in my son running indoor track at KF. Thank you both. Noah is also a great young man with great baseball skills. Coty has worked very hard this off season to improve his game and it is showing. Oh, did I mention that all three of these young man are also great students. I am very proud of what Coach Stafford has done so far with the KF baseball program. It will continue to grow. Thanks to everyone who has posted positive comments about Cal, Noah, Coty,as well as other players on the King’s Fork team. Have a great season guys! Go Bulldogs!!!!!

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  • TB

    Always great to read an article that mentions 3 players I coached and watched grow in the game and as young men. There are times I wish the baseball talent in Suffolk was not split between Kings Fork and Lakeland as I know the talent is there to stand up to any competition within their division. I can definitely see myself attending some KFHS games this season just to see Danny Gromkoski, Noah Johnson and Coty Ward play; 3 great young men who bring nothing but their best, both on and off the field and a great core to build a team around. I had the privilege to watch all 3 excel at every level through the years and wish them the best. I really look forward to seeing the bigger version of Coty Ward. That young man has the most heart and is the toughest, heads up player I’ve ever coached and just gets better every year.
    I’ll take the pledge with you Kenny as I am all for supporting and motivating any and all of our young people to excel on and off the field. A parting thought…don’t know who said it, but, when you squeeze a winner, you get results and achievement…squeeze a loser, you get excuses and complaints. Go Bulldogs!!!

    Tony Beggs

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  • shannonward

    I want to first say Thank You for those of you who have come and posted comments in defense of my son and the other KF players. This is the 2nd time that mom22 has posted negative comments regarding my sons playing ability. Let me remind you that it takes more than just showing up for a game to be called a member of a team. It takes work ethic, a good attitude, and showing up for practice. It is true that KF has had its struggles but there hasn’t been a consistant leader to show them the way until now. Over the last year, Coach Stafford has invested endless hours in this program.

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  • ourhouse

    I do not have a student who attends KFHS but I do know Coty Ward, Cal Bailey and Noah Johnson, and their parents, who I’m sure do not appreciate reading or hearing negative comments about their sons. I do not believe there is any circumstance that would warrant any player to be commented on negatively, especially in a public forum such as this. I know that Coty, Cal and Noah have played Pony, travel, showcase, tournament and/or high school baseball for much of the last 10+ years, and I have seen all of them play on many occasions. To play for that length of time and at all of those levels, I would say that they must have true passion for baseball. I have certainly witnessed their passion on the baseball field. Coty was a member of teams I coached for 7 years prior to high school. Coty could always be counted upon to work hard, bring his game and give his best effort for the team. I can say the same about Cal and Noah, which I witnessed every time I’ve watched them play.

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  • dspgolf

    Isn’t it odd, that the people with the least amount of knowledge about a players recruiting status, always seem to be “in the know” ! Like they have some “inside source”…LOL find something else to do with your time.
    I thought the attitude problems associated with this team all graduated last couple years? Please remember that as you complain about KF baseball not having a classy baseball program. If your not part of the solution, your part of the problem. I promise to do all that I can to be a positive role model for the young men in this program…anybody care to take a public pledge with me?

    Kenny Johnson

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  • mom22

    I apologise for “naming names”, but I just get so mad when certain players are made out to be so much more than they are- at the expense of playing time for the rest of the team.

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  • justmetoo

    .WOW mom22 certainly doesn’t show adult good leadership calling out these boys name and making derogatory statements about them. Suppose you were one if the parents of one of these boys and someone made a comment like that about your son. Hmmm or is this the problem anyway…. You child isn’t on the team OR he didn’t get his name called out? You are not setting a very good example mom22

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  • mg1964

    It would be awesome to see KFHS have a great year. This program has been lacking consistency from the coaching staff as there has been many turn overs in the varsity program. Calling out specific players is unnecessary here. These boys are really good individal players who need a coach to make a TEAM. Good luck KFHS. By the way Mom22…..it is uncool to call out other peoples children…..would you want anyone to say that about your child…..? Politics……Hah…..visit NRHS program.

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  • mom22

    I’ve seen Cody Ward and Cal Bailey pitch…they can barely get it across the plate!!! Noah Johnson commiting to Dev. 1 school is false- not being recruited. Too much politics in this Athletic program for this team to be any good.

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