Senior Love looks to lead cfa Academy Eagles
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Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

Senior Love looks to lead cfa Academy Eagles

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- JOE HABINA
Senior Griffin Love of cfa Academy batted .445 last season with four home runs and 20 RBIs for the Eagles.
  • Five to watch

    • Austin Fox, Cox Mill, senior – Infielder/pitcher. Led Cox Mill to the South Piedmont 3A Conference tournament championship last year. Batted .398 with 23 runs scored and 23 stolen bases in 26 attempts. Also posted a 5-4 record in 11 appearances (nine starts) on the mound.

    • Austin Greco, Hickory Ridge, senior – Catcher. A three-year letterman, Greco started every game behind the plate for Hickory Ridge last season. Known more for his defense, Greco threw out 14 out of 28 attempted base stealers. He also batted .270 and knocked in 14 runs.

    • Daniel Hamilton, Northwest Cabarrus, senior – Pitcher. Latest in a long line of Northwest Cabarrus pitchers who will play at the next level. Hamilton, a righty who throws in the upper-80s mph, signed with UNC Wilmington in November. The Trojans’ success will be determined by how dominant he can be.

    • Josh Holmes, Mount Pleasant, junior – Infielder. All-South Piedmont 3A Conference last year when Mount Pleasant won the regular-season championship. Holmes led the Tigers in batting last year, hitting better than .400. He’s interested in adding some power to his swing.

    • Griffin Love, cfa Academy, senior – Infielder/pitcher. All-state and all-conference player led cfa Academy to the Metrolina Athletic 2A/3A Conference tournament championship last year. Batted .445 with four home runs and 20 RBIs. Four-year starter. Signed with Limestone College.

Griffin Love says he would like to play baseball for as long as he can.

Beyond that, he said he might like to coach someday, too.

With his passion for the game and his desire to help others, Love is currently, at least in part, living out his wishes as a senior at cfa Academy.

As a fourth-year starter, Love has a mental and physical approach to baseball that has drawn compliments from his coach. He has welcomed the invitation to lead younger players in offseason workouts, and he relishes the opportunity to serve as a role model for his teammates.

For those reasons, cfa Academy may be poised to win a conference championship this season and make a deep run in the private/independent schools state playoffs.

The Eagles are coming off a 2013 campaign in which they claimed the Metrolina Athletic 2A/3A Conference tournament crown and finished 13-9 overall. With all but two players returning, coaches and players are optimistic about the results they could produce this year.

Last season, Love was named all-conference and to the 2A all-state team after batting .445, belting four homers and knocking in 20 runs. He was also called in to pitch in an emergency; he sported a 2.20 earned run average.

“One of the things I’d say about Griffin is that he has a desire beyond anyone I’ve ever seen,” said first-year coach Brad Riley. “He’s very committed to it. Griffin is very focused. He has a great knowledge of the game. He’s well balanced. He works on his techniques in hitting, fielding and throwing.”

Love has been a cfa Academy starter since his freshman year, playing mostly in the outfield. He batted .333 as a ninth-grader and provided some key defense.

As a sophomore, he struggled at the plate, hitting a paltry .250. But the Eagles qualified for the state tournament and advanced all the way to the semifinals.

With only one senior on last year’s team, cfa Academy slid to fifth place in the Metrolina Athletic. Riley, who was an assistant coach last year, said the conference was balanced, and there wasn’t much difference between the first- and fifth-place teams.

Love started the season in centerfield but moved to third base halfway through the year. Early on, though, cfa Academy lost its top two pitchers to injury, and Love was called on to the be the No. 1 starter.

In the league tournament, the Eagles turned back Northside Christian in the first round, advancing to face the regular-season champs, Metrolina Christian, in the semifinals.

In a scoreless game, Love led off the top of the seventh with a double and advanced to third base on a passed ball. He later scored, and the Eagles captured a 1-0 victory.

The championship game, in which cfa Academy would face Covenant Day, was pushed back to a Friday because the first-round games earlier in the week had been postponed by rain.

That posed a dilemma for half of cfa Academy’s players, who had plans to attend the school’s prom that same Friday. Playing at Covenant Day in Matthews, tournament organizers pushed the game up to 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

Love started the game on the mound and lasted three innings. He was on fire at the plate, going four-for-five with a home run, a triple and two singles. The Eagles won 15-6, and Love was one of the players who had to skip the postgame ceremonies so he could zip to the prom at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis.

Heading into this season, Love and fellow senior captain, Hunter Willis, a catcher, have organized offseason practices for their teammates. Junior infielder Kory Nesslinger will also be a key contributor to this year’s team.

“I’m extremely excited about this season,” said Love. “We have all our players coming back except for two. We are extremely dedicated. We’re all in shape. We want another conference championship.”

Next year, Love will be playing at Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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