Drew Loepprich always wanted to be a pitcher. He started playing the position at age 9 in his first kid-pitch league.“I was pretty good at it,” he said. “I could always throw strikes, which was the main thing when I was younger.” Now a senior on the Charlotte Country Day baseball team, Loepprich, a Wake Forest signee, is still throwing plenty of strikes as the team’s top pitcher. Loepprich, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander, was named to the all-conference and N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A all-state team for the second straight year last season. He finished the year 9-2 on the mound with a 1.13 ERA, 67 strikeouts and 23 walks. Head coach Mike Hennessey, in his ninth year at Country Day, said Loepprich’s success stems from his ability to pound the strike zone. “He throws strikes, he commands both sides of the plate and he can throw any pitch in any count,” Hennessey said. Loepprich, 18, who reportedly throws a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, said he wants to challenge batters, not pitch around them. “I’ve always, consistently, not walked many people, so that’s what I always try to focus on is let guys see if they can hit me and let my defense play behind me,” he said. Loepprich started his freshman year on varsity but moved down to junior varsity midway through the season to get more playing experience. He pitched on varsity as a sophomore, throwing well enough to make all-conference and all-state. As a sophomore, Loepprich started working on improving himself physically. He ate better, ran more and started lifting weights. “I wanted there to be nothing I couldn’t physically do,” he said. Loepprich said he notices the difference in his ability to pitch late into games. “It kind of feels like the longer the game goes on, the better I get,” he said. “I never really feel tired.” In November, Loepprich signed to play at Wake Forest next season. He said he always wanted to play at a good baseball school in the ACC. He also wanted a school that would challenge him academically; he carries a 3.6 GPA at Country Day and wants to study accounting. “Wake Forest is just the perfect combination of both,” Loepprich said. Country Day lost five seniors from a team that went 15-12 last year and lost in the second round of the NCISAA 3A tournament. Hennessey said he feels confident in the middle of his field, with senior Dean Franco at second base, junior Clemson commit Jordan Greene at shortstop, junior Zach Ostrow in center field and junior Nathan Brenner behind the plate. Hennessey also likes the pitching staff around Loepprich, with returning senior left-hander Justin Freedman and returning junior righty Alex Owen joining Forsyth Country Day transfer James Williams, a left-hander. The Bucs play in a tough league, however, which includes two-time defending state champion Charlotte Christian.That challenge doesn’t stop Loepprich from having lofty championship goals for his team. “We don’t want to have a limit to what we can do,” he said. Loepprich will be an integral part of whatever success Country Day has. “Drew’s the guy for the last two years on our team that when he gets on the mound, everyone plays at a different level,” Hennessey said. “He pushes the team to be better every time he takes the mound.”
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
Loepprich keeps throwing strikes for Buccaneers
Five others to watch
• Brooks Kennedy, South Mecklenburg, Sr. – Infield, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds. North Carolina signee returns after helping the Sabres to a 4A state championship. Teammate Harris Yett, a N.C. State signee, also returns for South Meck.
• Doug Norman, Ardrey Kell, Sr. – Pitcher, 6-foot-3, 175 pounds. Louisiana State signee will team with N.C. State signee Zach Featherstone on an always-competitive Knights team.
• Nick Owens, Charlotte Christian, Sr. – Infield, 6-foot, 175 pounds. N.C. State signee returns to the two-time defending state champion Knights. Named All-NCISAA last season.
• Tommy DeJuneas, Providence High, Sr. – Infield/Pitcher, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds. N.C. State signee was named All-Southwestern 4A last season and helped a young Panthers team to the SW4A tournament title game.
• Jordan Greene, Charlotte Country Day, Jr. – Infield, 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. Clemson commit averaged .438 at the plate with 20 RBIs and six home runs as a sophomore last season.
Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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