College baseball players from across the country are spending their summer honing their skills with the Lake Norman Copperheads.The Huntersville-based team, which plays in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League, brings together players from community colleges to Division I schools looking to become more well-rounded in preparation for next spring’s college season.“It’s getting some of these guys at-bats they didn’t get at the collegiate level,” said first-year Copperheads coach Jeremy Johnson, a former minor-league pitcher. “They can take this, develop some confidence, so they can go back and help their teams.”That also applies to pitchers, he said.“They can just see hitters and work on their stuff,” said Johnson. “By the time they go back next year, hopefully they have honed their pitches, honed their skills, so they can go and contribute to their collegiate program.”Pitcher Weston Smith, a Kannapolis resident who plays for the Charlotte 49ers, and catcher Jack Edmiston, a Mooresville resident who plays at Bates College in Maine, are among those playing for the Copperheads this season.Smith is coming off a medical redshirt freshman year, while Edmiston played sparingly as a freshman for his Division III squad. They see playing in the wood-bat summer league as an opportunity to face quality opponents and improve.“It’s been a fun experience,” said Smith, a Northwest Cabarrus graduate. “It’s nice to get out and just play.”The league’s relaxed environment – where every team reaches the playoffs and players don’t have many expectations – gives player the perfect setting to work on their games.“You can focus on baseball,” said Edmiston, a Lake Norman High alumnus. “You don’t have to worry about school or anything like that.”For many, playing near home is an added benefit.“I wanted to be close to home, and I’ve known Jeremy previously, so that helped when he became the head coach,” said Edmiston, who played for Johnson’s Mooresville Post 66 American Legion team last summer. “I like playing under him.”For Smith, staying close to the UNC Charlotte campus was key. The 49ers’ staff wanted him to train in their facilities as he recovers from fracturing a vertebra last year.Having as many as seven games every week, the Copperheads need as much depth as they can get, so the organization is glad to field local and out-of-town players.“Everybody’s going to play,” said Johnson. “They’re going to get some time … and that’s why they’re here.”Johnson thinks the Copperheads, which started the SCBL season 5-4 and play home games at Hopewell High, are heading in the right direction.“Guys have swung the bat pretty well overall. Pitching’s been really good so far,” said Johnson. “Some guys are getting used to doing new things. We have some guys who didn’t get much playing time, so they’re getting their feet wet again.”He said the Copperheads are still coming together. “The first couple of days, I didn’t hear a lot out of them,” Johnson said. “They’re starting to talk a little bit and develop some friendships out here.”With out-of-towners hailing from as far as San Diego and living with host families, the team had to adjust to playing as a unit.“Some of us knew each other, but I think we’ve meshed together well with the guys not from around here and the ones we didn’t know,” said Smith. “I think we have good team chemistry so far.”Pitcher Josh Branch, a right-handed junior at Pfeiffer, has stood out as a starter, while Rhode Island sophomore right-hander Mathew Ferraiolo has been good out of the bullpen.Coastal Carolina outfielder Richard Carter and Charlotte 49ers shortstop Mikal Hill, a Mallard Creek graduate, have impressed Johnson at the plate.Davidson College outfielder Forrest Brandt, a late addition to the team, and UNC Pembroke infielder Brett Huffman also have hit the ball well early. The regular season continues through July 20.“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” said Edmiston. “The longer the season goes, I think the better we’ll get to know each other. We’ve been playing well, but I think we have more left in the tank.”
Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2013
Summer team gives Lake Norman-area collegiate players a way to improve
Learn more: Visit www. scbl.org for schedules, rosters, stats and more from the Lake Norman Copperheads and other Southern Collegiate Baseball League teams.
Tovar: 704-358-5941; Twitter: @sergiotovar
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less