The Weddington baseball team’s goal is simple each year: Win the last game.For the past two seasons, coach Travis Poole and his Warriors have done just that, winning back-to-back N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state championships while going 50-17.While Poole says his team’s goal will be the same this season, the path to the another championship won’t be easy after losing all-state talents Alex Bostic (now playing at Clemson) and Jeremy Schellhorn (UNC Charlotte).“For two straight years, I haven’t had to say goodbye to my seniors with a loss,” Poole said. “I stress that a lot. We don’t want this season to end with a loss, either. But we don’t have the overall talent we’ve had in the past. So we are going to have to find different ways to win the big games. But this group definitely knows what it takes.”With five Division I signees back in the fold, no one is feeling sorry for Weddington baseball. The Warriors will still have a strong lineup, led by seniors Daniel Calabretta (Duke signee), Sean Collins (Richmond, Va., signee), Jake Ferry (Belmont Abbey signee), Landon Kay (Furman, S.C., signee) and Jeff Welch (Virginia Commonwealth signee).Calabretta, who hit .397 and was state championship MVP last year, and Collins, who hit .365 with seven home runs, are four-year varsity starters who will lead the offense. Kay (7-1) and Collins will look to be the 1-2 punch on the mound if the Warriors are going to contend for championships.Calabretta, who hit for the cycle in the championship clinching 17-14 win over D.H. Conley last year, said the seniors are ready to step up. A huge key to the Warriors success, though, will also be who else emerges for Weddington, with players like sophomore Josh Hollifield ready for breakout seasons.“We have a great tradition here, and I think our younger guys want to be a part of that success and want to get a ring, too,” Calabretta said. “We (the seniors) have to make sure to set the tone from the beginning.”The biggest obstacles to Weddington winning a third-straight state championship could come from their own conference, where archrival Marvin Ridge and defending 2A state champion Piedmont will also have sights on a league title.Their schedule, which opens at 4A power Ardrey Kell Feb. 26, will be a huge challenge that will provide them with the tests they need to be ready for the playoffs.This is a team that has proved it can overcome adversity. After starting 1-5 last season and going into the playoffs 16-10, Weddington roared back to win eight of their final nine games and take the 3A state title. Poole, who has 489 career wins going into the season and hopes to win his 500th this season, is a strong leader; he has proven he can put together a consistent winner against any competition.“I would put our conference against any other conference in the state, because I believe we have three of the best teams in North Carolina (regardless of classification),” Poole said. “If we can compete in our own conference, we can compete with anyone. We believe in ourselves.”The Warriors are eager to get back to work, as they look to get off to a better start and hope to avoid the injuries that had their lineup in a constant flux last year.If they can stay healthy, Calabretta believes they have the talent to be right where they want to be in the postseason.“We’ve turned the page from last year, but we will have the same end goal,” said Calabretta. “We absolutely want a third ring and believe we can do it. We’re all going to have to step up our games and make big plays in every game. But we like the challenge; we’re used to it.”
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
Weddington looking to make another championship run
Five to watch
• Daniel Calabretta – Weddington, Sr. Infield, 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. State championship MVP, all-state performer and Duke signee is back to Warriors after hitting .397 with 16 doubles and two home runs last year.
• Sean Collins – Weddington, Sr. Pitcher/Outfield, 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. Another all-state Warrior and University of Richmond commit who will team with Landon Kay (Furman signee) to give Weddington a strong 1-2 punch on the mound and will also be big at the plate.
• Nigel Hester – Piedmont, Sr. Outfield/Infield, 5-foot-10, 160 pounds. Panthers’ speedster looks to set the tone for this team with shortstop Hunter Jones (UNC Charlotte signee). Hester hit .429 with five triples, 23 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases to help lead Piedmont to 2A state title last season; he is a North Carolina A&T signee.
• Corey Sikes – Piedmont, Sr. Pitcher, 6-foot, 160 pounds. All-state ( NCpreps.com) left-handed pitcher, Western Carolina signee is back to lead Panthers as Piedmont looks to contend for league title and more.
• Max Wotell – Marvin Ridge, Jr. 6-foot-2, 175 pounds. Pitcher/Utility. Mavericks’ lefty and University of Arizona commit is expecting to put up even better numbers as a junior after going 8-0 on the mound with 2.30 ERA and 64 strikeouts, and .364 with four HR and 20 RBIs at the plate as a sophomore.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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