Last year, the Mooresville Spinners won the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League championship in their first year in the summer college wood-bat league.
But Preston Lyon, the Spinners’ new head coach, doesn’t feel much, if any, pressure to repeat as CVCL champions. The players, on the other hand, know that being the defending league champions creates some expectations.
“Being the new guy, there’s not a lot of pressure,” Lyon said. “But I have a lot of confidence in my knowledge of the game. Being a student of the game, I’ve learned a lot about baseball throughout my playing career.
“But I would say there is a little bit of pressure for myself and the guys as well about performing, and bringing that championship back to Mooresville.”
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The Spinners, despite a revamped lineup of players and battling injuries, are off to a good start. Mooresville is 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the CVCL, good for second place in the league’s Western Division as of June 8, and have won four consecutive games.
“The guys are playing hard, and it’s really got nothing to do with me,” Lyon said. “They all know how to play the game, that’s what got them to college. They all know where they want to be, and they know they’ve got to work to get there.
“It’s kinda making my job easier. I tell these guys, ‘Show up at the park and get your work in, because you’re either going to get better or you’re going to get worse every day. Those are the only two options you have.’”
Lyon, who starred at Gastonia’s Forestview High and Pfeiffer, played in the minor leagues for three seasons before moving into coaching. He’s currently an assistant coach on Forestview’s baseball team and was an assistant coach with the Gastonia Grizzlies’ Coastal Plain League before taking over as the Spinners’ head coach.
“There’s so much to do behind the scenes that it was taking up too much of my time,” said Mooresville general manager Phillip Loftin, who also coached the Spinners last season. “One thing I did learn was to expect injuries and bring in a lot more players.”
It also helps that the Spinners have some experience, with more than a third of Mooresville’s 30-player roster back from last season’s championship team.
Among the returnees are five with local connections – outfielders Clay Hodges (East Lincoln High) and Dylan Goodman (South Rowan High), infielders Danny Sullivan (East Lincoln) and Kane Sutten (South Iredell High), catcher Dale Miller (Mooresville High), and pitchers Justin Norton and Owen Lilly (both North Lincoln High). Also returning for the Spinners are catcher Stefan Susi, infielders Jacob Midkiff, outfielder Rocco Wilcox, and pitchers Kyle Foster, Tyler Shreve and Andy Hoyer.
“We definitely brought back some of the main guys, but we got better at a lot of positions, too,” Loftin said. “These guys hit the ball a lot better, and our pitching is deep. But we had a better bullpen last year … we’re still trying to figure out who’s the guy who can come in at the end of the game and shut the door in the ninth inning.”
Lyon said the Spinners also brought in a number of newcomers with area connections, such as pitchers Tyler Sides (A.L. Brown High), David Scoggins (Lincoln Charter), Sean Grant (West Iredell High) and David Sides (East Lincoln); infielders Colton Chapman (Bunker Hill High) and Addison Parrish (East Lincoln), and catcher Corbin Hockensmith (Southlake Christian).
“Phil signed a lot of great guys,” Lyon said. “He’s brought in hungry freshmen who didn’t have as much opportunity as they did at school. They’re bringing that intense mentality and attitude here. Plus, as anyone in any sport will tell you, when you show up at an organization and see a few people walking around with a big (championship) ring on their finger, that’s enticing as well.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.