High school baseball season kicks off Wednesday, Feb. 28, and the Observer is kicking off a preview to highlight the season.
Correspondent Jay Edwards will present county-by-county previews for schools in the Observer’s coverage area.
We start with Catawba County
CATAWBA COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PREVIEW
Teams to Watch
Bunker Hill: The Bears had a 19-win season a year ago, finishing second in the Southern District 7 to East Lincoln. Legendary coach, Marty Curtis, and his team look to contend in the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference with seniors, Eli Moser, Carrington Chapman, Luke Carter and junior, Thaxton Isenhour, back to lead a veteran team that knows how to win. Bunker Hill has 86 wins in the last four seasons.
Fred T. Foard: The Tigers won 19 games, including the NW3A/4A conference title last year and advanced to the third round of the 3A state playoffs. This year, Foard returns three starters, led by 6-foot-5 senior, Austin Houser, and classmates, Matthew Greenwood and Spencer Miller, giving them the core to contend for the Northwest Foothills’ 2A title and be a tough playoff matchup with their strong pitching staff.
Hickory: Coach David Craft returns five starters from a team that went 18-10 overall, led by seniors Pierson Hanvey and Jacob Fuller. The Red Tornadoes expect to right in the thick of the ultra-competitive Northwestern 3A/4A conference race and in solid playoff position.
Maiden: The Blue Devils return five starters from a 13-10 team that has the talent, led by senior Bryson Ledford and sophomore Carlos Reynoso, to be a factor in the new South Fork 2A conference and into the postseason. Maiden has seven straight winning seasons.
Bandys: Coach Frank Porter has an experienced group with seven starters back in the lineup, led by seniors, Jared Crowe (Brunswick Community College signee), Andrew Patrick (Catawba Valley Community College signee) and T.J. Rasar (Brunswick Comm. College signee).
Players to Watch
Austin Houser, Fred T. Foard, Sr.: Catawba Valley Community College commit hit .371, seven doubles, two home runs, 21 Spencer Miller, Fred T. Foard, Sr.: Tiger standout also gets it done at the plate (.265, seven doubles) and on the mound (85-87 mph).
Eli Moser, Bunker Hill, Sr.: Three-year starter will need to be big offensively (hit .325 last season) and defensively (pitcher/shortstop) for an experienced Bears’ team looking to prove they can contend in new, Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference.
Bryson Ledford, Maiden, Sr.: Mars Hills’ University commit (4-1/3.47 ERA) is part of a strong, Blue Devils’ pitching staff with sophomore, Carlos Reynoso (1.68 ERA).
Pierson Hanvey, Hickory, Sr.: Red Tornadoes’ senior leader will have to be a big weapon on both offense and defense (shortstop/pitcher) if Hickory is going to be a factor in a strong NW3A/4A conference.
Andy Cook, Hickory Christian, Jr.: Knights’ junior standout had a big sophomore season when he hit .340, stole 18 bases and was 4-2 as a pitcher with a 2.07 ERA and 68 strikeouts.
Andrew Patrick, Bandys/Jared Crowe, Bandys, Sr. (both): Trojans’ senior duo hope to lead an experienced Bandys’ lineup (seven starters back). Crowe (Brunswick Community College signee) will be big at the plate (.262/seven doubles in 2017) and behind it (catcher), while Patrick (Catawba Valley Community College signee) will be one of team’s top hitters (.389 last seasoj) and pitchers.
Cole Chapman, St. Stephens, Sr.: Catawba Valley Community College commit hit .301 last season for the Indians.
Can’t Miss Games
Fred T. Foard at Bandys, Feb. 28: Season opener for both teams could set the tone, give the winner a big boost from the start.
Hickory at South Caldwell, March 26; Alexander Central at Hickory, March 28: If Hickory is going to be a factor in the NW3A/4A conference race, this three-day span against league powers right before Spring Break will be big for the Red Tornadoes.
Statesville Christian at Hickory Christian, March 27: If the Knights are going to challenge Statesville Christian for the top spot in the SPAA, they will likely have to hold serve at home against Lions in this late March conference battle.
Hibriten at Bunker Hill, April 13: This mid-April, Northwest Foothills’ 2A tussle will also be critical in the league standings, as teams also start thinking about postseason position.
Bunker Hill at Fred T. Foard, April 17: Catawba County rivals likely to play a huge role in who wins the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference and this late April matchup should have major league and postseason implications.
- Bunker Hill baseball coach, Marty Curtis, has 539 career wins, including 437 victories in 34 years as the Bears’ head coach. Curtis begins his 35th year this season.
- Maiden sophomore, Carlos Reynoso, had a major impact as a freshman, hitting. 275 at the plate and posting a 1.68 ERA on the mound. Now, Reynoso hopes to even more productive in 2018.
- Hickory Christian baseball coach, Chris Harris believes his team can battle for the South Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA) with four starters back led by juniors, Andy Cook and Luke Harris. The Knights made their 1st playoff appearance in school history last year (9-8), winning their opening round game, before falling in the 2nd round and hope to build on that momentum in 2018.
Northwestern 3A/4A Conference
- Alexander Central; 2. South Caldwell; 3. McDowell; 4. Hickory; 5. West Caldwell; 6. St. Stephens; 7. Watauga; 8. Freedom.
Northwest Foothills 2A Conference
- Bunker Hill; 2. Hibriten; 3. Fred T. Foard; 4. Patton; 5. Draughn; 6. West Iredell; 7. East Burke.
Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (NCISAA)
- Statesville Christian; 2. Carmel Christian; 3. Hickory Christian; 4. Christ the King; 5. Victory Christian; 6. North Hills Christian; 7. United Faith.
South Fork 2A Conference
- North Lincoln; 2. Lake Norman Charter; 3. East Lincoln; 4. Lincolnton; 5. Bandys; 6. Maiden; 7. West Lincoln; 8. Newton Conover.