Saints ready to swing for home runsPublished 10:40pm Friday, March 8, 2013
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy will take on the competition this year with a team that has few seniors but is rich in upperclassmen that are poised to grow from last year’s campaign.
In 2012, the Saints went 12-9 overall and 5-4 in the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools. They advanced to the semifinals of the TCIS tournament before falling 11-1 in the semifinals to Cape Henry Collegiate, the eventual state champions.
Through graduation, the team lost both little and much. Parting ways with only three seniors translates into good roster stability for this season, but two of the three seniors were all-conference talents who are now pitching for college teams.
“Taylor Edens was a senior last year who was our horse on the mound, had some big wins for us on the mound,” Saints head coach David Mitchell said. “He’s now pitching at (Virginia Military Institute), (and) he got his first Division I appearance last week.”
Shortstop Anthony Waldner, who was also all-state, is now playing at Chowan University, a Division II school.
While those are big losses, the team returns a junior-laden roster.
“Most of those guys got experience last year, so we have some good experience coming back,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is beginning his second year as the coach at NSA, but it’s his 15th overall coaching baseball. When asked what his expectations were for the season, his response reflected his game-by-game approach.
“To win today,” he said, referring to a Friday afternoon scrimmage against Southampton High School.
The Saints did win, 8-4, as darkness began to fall.
“Our focus is to win the next game,” Mitchell said. “That’s kind of how we’re taking it.”
To win that next game consistently, the Saints will have to benefit from players rising to the occasion on the mound.
“We return one pitching victory from last year, and that’s it,” Mitchell said. “Even though we return a lot of experienced position players, we do not have a lot of experience pitching.”
Quite a few players have logged pitching time on the junior varsity level, in addition to some limited time on the varsity level.
“One of those guys is Greg Beale,” Mitchell said. “He’s a junior, and he is a college prospect, and he’s a guy we’re going to rely on heavily on the mound.”
“Taylor left last year, so I’m going to have to fill his hole, pitching a lot of innings,” Beale said. “So that’s basically what my role and what my goal is this season, is become a better pitcher and be a leader for the team.”
Mitchell said he would also be counting on junior left-hander Jeremy Cobb and sophomore left-hander Cam Sutton to help form this year’s pitching committee, which is composed of seven to eight capable throwers. Beale and Cobb are expected to be the leaders at the position, though.
Sophomore Toby Buchanan, who Mitchell said is a college prospect, will be taking Waldner’s spot as shortstop. Buchanan commented on his transition from catcher to this new position.
“I’m pretty excited about going to shortstop,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been wanting to play there, but I think it’s been pretty smooth so far. Just want to get out and get more game experience.”
Junior Jake Grady will need to come up big in centerfield and at bat. He stole 17 bases last year, will hit lead-off and is also a college prospect, Mitchell said. Grady spoke to what the Saints will have to do this year to succeed.
“We’re not the type of team, Coach Mitchell says, that is going to knock down fences, so to speak,” Grady said. “So, we’re going to have to use bunts, hit-and-runs, that kind of stuff to get them on, get them over and get them in.”
As far as challenges, Mitchell said that Nansemond-Suffolk is in search of leaders on the team that can serve as on-the-field coaches to lead the charge against what will be a very difficult schedule.
The Steward School will visit the Saints on March 14 to begin the regular season.