High School Sports

After disappointing season, what triggered Myers Park’s baseball resurgence?

Myers Park’s Owen Capps (center) celebrates after scoring a run against East Mecklenburg in Tuesday’s baseball game at East Mecklenburg. He is congratulated by teammate Vince Chelena (left).
Myers Park’s Owen Capps (center) celebrates after scoring a run against East Mecklenburg in Tuesday’s baseball game at East Mecklenburg. He is congratulated by teammate Vince Chelena (left). jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Myers Park has most of the same players from last year’s baseball team.

Last season, Myers Park was 10-15.

This season, the Mustangs are 10-1.

So what’s changed?

“We are bought in,” said pitcher Owen Copps. “We’ve got a practice plan every day. We’re like a machine now. We get to work and we get out what we put in.”

Myers Park athletics director Rick Lewis named Erik Foor head coach in August. Foor is Myers Park’s fourth coach in four years. But Lewis feels he’s the right guy this time to deliver Myers Park its first state title since 1970. Foor, an assistant coach at the University of Iowa last year, was has also been an assistant at Belmont Abbey and pitching coach at California State.

Foor played minor-league baseball the Chicago Cubs organization after being named an all-conference pitcher at California State in 2005.

His experience has had an immediate impact at Myers Park. The Mustangs (10-1) have outscored opponents 98-20. Copps is 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA. Evan Campbell is 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA and 22 strikeouts. Starter catcher David Hutto is hitting .389 and shortstop Patrick Alvarez is hitting .462.

Myers Park has beaten three recent N.C. 4A state champions -- Ardrey Kell, South Mecklenburg and Providence -- and has only lost to Southwestern 4A conference rival Independence.

“They put a lot of pressure on you,” Independence coach Daniel Cooke said. “They can bunt. They can run. They can pitch. You’ve got to defend the whole field. But they play with a lot more energy and belief than last year. It’s the same pieces for the most part with the new coach. They play like they believe now.”

MaxPreps, a website that tracks high school performance, ranks Myers Park No. 44 overall among N.C. teams and No. 19 in the 4A class. Some of that is based on history. Myers Park has averaged 13.4 wins per year since 2008. The Mustangs have been to the playoffs 12 times in 36 years, winning 10 postseason games. Providence, which opened in 1989, has been to the postseason 23 times and won 49 games since 1980. South Meck has been 25 times in the same span, winning 37 games. And 11-year-old Ardrey Kell is 24-11 in 10 playoff appearances.

But Lewis says Foor is the person who can help raise Myers Park to the level of its southeast Charlotte rivals.

“The thing I’m trying to introduce to our program,” Foor said, “is aggression. My nature on the offensive side is to be aggressive and with the clientele we have, it suits them.”

Copps said the combination of new attitude, a team that’s about half-full with seniors -- and just plain hunger to do better -- has become a potent combination at his school.

“We’re banning together,” Copps said. “We’re playing as a team, playing for each other and we’re staying focused on the process each and every day.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

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