High school baseball season kicks off next week and the Observer is previewing teams this week by county in the newspaper’s coverage area.
Here are teams in multiple counties in upstate South Carolina. The preview was put together by correspondent Jay Edwards
Teams to Watch
Northwestern: The defending, S.C. 5A state champions are loaded again with five starters back in the lineup from a team that went 29-4 last year. Coach Mitch Walters will look to seniors Robert Hughes (Furman signee), Cameron Reeves (Citadel signee), Jordan Starkes (Furman signee) and Wesley Sweatt (South Carolina signee) to lead their team back into championship games (region, states). Northwestern has all the talent to repeat as AAAAA state champions, but it’s never easy going back-to-back.
South Pointe: The Stallions return four starters from the S.C. AAAA state runner-up (to A.C. Flora) that won 25 games last season. First year South Pointe coach Bradley Rudisill has plenty of experience and talent, led by junior Ty Good, and seniors Trey Prince and Austin Huffstetler. South Pointe looks to stay at the top of Region III 4A and be in position to make another run at a state championship.
Lewisville: Defending S.C. 1A state champions have the experience and talent to make another state championship run led by seniors, Jack Jordan, Quentin Sanders, Chase Yoder and sophomore Braxton Elms. Legendary Lions’ coach Billy Keels has proven his team can win at a high level consistently (22 wins per season over the last 17 years) and expects to compete for championships (region, state).
Fort Mill: The Yellow Jackets were much improved in Coach Travis Collier’s first year, going from 9-14 in 2016 to 21-10 in 2017. This season, Fort Mill has four starters back in the lineup, led by seniors Griffin Reddeck, Logan Stone, and junior J.T. Marr on a team hungry to contend for a region title.
Cheraw: 20-year veteran Cheraw coach, David Byrd (358 career wins) has another veteran team with eight starters from a 21-win squad that won the Region IV 2A championship in 2018. Seniors Tallon Campbell, Cole Chesnut and Wade Lofton, look to keep the Braves on top of the region standings and deeper into the playoffs.
Indian Land: The Warriors return eight starters from a 14-11 squad that finished as Region IV 3A state runner-up last year. This season, Coach Joey Robinson will look to seniors Nolan Bolt, Justin Cope and Daniel Gueldner, who hope to go out as region champions, while also making a playoff run.
Westminster Catawba: Coach Jason Terry believes his veteran team can be a contender in both the Metrolina Athletic conference (MAC) and the state playoffs. The Indians will lean on senior Jeremy De La Santos, and juniors Andrew Alejandro, Anthony Alejandro and Carson Rowland to play big roles in their success.
Players to Watch
Wesley Sweatt/Cameron Reeves/Robert Hughes, Northwestern, Sr.: Northwestern’s trio of Division I pitchers in Hughes (9-1, 1.10 ERA), Reeves (6-2, 2.43 ERA) and Sweatt (8 saves, 1.80 ERA) give the Trojans the pitching staff to be one of favorites to repeat as Region and state champions.
Ty Good, South Pointe, Jr.: Stallions’ standout excels on the mound (2-2, 2.04 ERA, 69 strikeouts in 65.1 innings pitched last year) and at the plate (.352, 10 doubles, 24 RBI, 23 runs scored, 15 stolen bases last year) and the Division I recruit (according to Coach Rudisill) looks to play an even bigger role for a team capable of being a AAAA state contender again this season.
Logan Stone, Fort Mill, Sr.: Yellow Jackets’ top pitcher (8-2, 1.53 ERA last year) back to lead a veteran, Fort Mill team that looks to challenge Northwestern in Region IV 5A.
R.J. Petit, Rock Hill, Sr.: 6-foot-7, right-handed pitcher/first baseman is an imposing figure on the mound (throws 89 miles per hour mph). Petit was 2-2 last season with a 3.03 ERA. He hit .286 with two home runs.
Tyler Causey, Nation Ford, Sr.: University of North Carolina signee back to power Falcons’ offense (.271, eight doubles, two home runs last season).
Chase Yoder/Jack Jordan, Lewisville, Sr. (both): Senior duo in Jordan (.314 BA) and Yoder (.333, 19 runs) back to lead the defending S.C. 1A state champions.
Daniel Gueldner, Indian Land, Sr.: Florence-Darlington Tech signee and two-time all-region pick will power Warriors’ offense (.375, 26 runs scored) while senior Nolan Bolt leads the pitching staff.
Jeremy De La Santos, Westminster Catawba, Sr.: All-MAC performer will power Indians’ offense (.386, four home runs, 22 runs last year) and defense (catcher) again this season.
Brett Percival, Andrew Jackson, Jr.: The 6-foot-4 Volunteers’ standout is an imposing force who can throw a 89 mile-per hour fastball and is in the USA Baseball U17 Developmental program. He has offers from Army (West Point), UNC Wilmington and Winthrop.
Destin Worthy, Chester, Fr.: Before he has even played in a high school game, the 5-foot-9 Chester freshman has already played for the U14 U.S. National team and can throw in the mid-80s with a split finger fastball.
Tallon Campbell/Wade Lofton, Cheraw, Sr. (both): Braves’ senior duo lead a veteran team with eight starters back from a team that won 21 games.
Can’t Miss Games
Northwestern at Charlotte Christian, March 6: NCISAA 3A state runner-up (30-5 last year) and S.C. AAAA state champion (29-4 last year) collide in week two matchup that will give Charlotte Christian coach Greg Simmons, and Northwestern coach Mitch Walters a great early read on their teams.
Northwestern at South Pointe, March 9: This Rock Hill (city) rivalry game pits the S.C. AAAAA state champion against the AAAA state runner-up. But these teams need no extra motivation as the city bragging rights at stake. The rematch is South Pointe at Northwestern, March 22.
Northwestern at Fort Mill, March 12: This matchup starts a crucial three-game series for both teams in Region play. Fort Mill hopes to gain momentum against the defending 5A state champions, while Northwestern looks to assert its hold on the league’s top spot. The series continues at Northwestern, March 14 and goes back to Fort Mill for the finale, March 16.
Indian Land at Chester, March 20: If the Cyclones are going to be a factor in Region IV 3A, they will have to hold serve at home against some of the league’s best teams.
Westminster Catawba at SouthLake Christian, April 10: The Indians believe they can contend for a MAC title, they will likely have to go through a loaded, SouthLake Christian squad on the road in this mid-April league meeting.
York at South Pointe, April 13: This meeting between York county rivals should be critical for both squads in the Region III 4A standings with just a week left in the regular season.
Great Falls at Lewisville, April 17: In this rivalry game there’s always a lot to play for, and in the final week of the regular season the stakes get even bigger in the Region II 1Astandings and for postseason positioning.
Cheraw at Andrew Jackson, April 17: The Braves and the Volunteers could be playing for the Region IV 2A title with just three days left in the regular season. Either way, the game should be critical to both teams’ playoff position.
Northwestern at Rock Hill, April 20: Whenever Rock Hill and Northwestern play in any sport, it’s a big deal. The regular season finale between these arch rivals will likely have big Region IV 5A and postseason ramifications. The three-game series starts at Rock Hill, April 16, and shifts to Northwestern, April 18.
Fort Mill at Nation Ford, April 20: The battle for (town of) Fort Mill supremacy is always a big game, but gets even bigger as the regular season finale as both teams battle for better Region IV, AAAAA and playoff position.
▪ First-year Chester baseball coach Matt Durand has inspired the Chester county community with his comeback to the diamond. Durand, a Chester assistant for the last three years, was diagnosed with brain cancer and spent most of this fall and winter in chemotherapy and radiation. Durand says he’s "feeling much better now," and is happy to be back on the field, where he hopes to help Chester contend for Region IV, AAA title.
▪ Lewisville baseball coach Billy Keels, has guided the Lions to 370 wins in 17 years as head coach, including seven state championships. Keels and company won their first state title in seven years last season, and the defending S.C. A state champions have great expectations again in 2018.
▪ Indian Land coach Joey Robinson, is not afraid to play anyone as the Warriors have traditional N.C. powers (and past state champions) Ardrey Kell and Marvin Ridge on the schedule in addition to the season opening Carolina Border Battle Invitational in Myrtle Beach and Northwestern’s Spring Break tournament.
▪ First-year South Pointe baseball coach Bradley Rudisill gets the rare opportunity in coaching to take over a team stocked with talent as he inherits a 25-win squad that was 4A state runner-up last year and returns a solid core of four starters in 2018.
▪ Northwestern senior outfielder Jordan Starkes is one of the area’s most versatile athletes as the Furman baseball signee also stars on the Trojans’ football team, where he had 70 catches for 846 yards and seven touchdowns last fall.
Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC)
- 1. SouthLake Christian; 2. Westminster Catawba; 3. Metrolina Christian; 4. Northside Christian; 5. Gaston Christian; 6. Gaston Day; 7. Hickory Grove; 8. Concord First Assembly.
Region IV, AAAAA
- 1. Northwestern; 2. Fort Mill; 3. Rock Hill; 4. Nation Ford; 5. Clover.
Region III, AAAA
- 1. South Pointe; 2. York; 3. Lancaster; 4. Richland Northeast; 5. Westwood; 6. Ridge View.
Region IV, AAA
- 1. Indian Land; 2. Chester; 3. Camden; 4. Fairfield Central; 5. Columbia.
Region IV, AA
- 1. Cheraw; 2. Andrew Jackson; 3. Central Pageland; 4. Buford; 5. Chesterfield; 6. North Central; 7. Lee Central.
Region II, A
- 1. Lewisville; 2. McBee; 3. Lamar; 4. Great Falls; 5. Timmonsville.
**Buford, Central Pageland, Chesterfield, Great Falls, Lancaster, McBee and York had not responded to requests for preseason information when this story was published.