Colonial Heights' Youthfulness Can Lead To Success
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Mar 6, 2014, 22:42
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — While experience in sports is an added advantage for the teams who are lucky enough to possess it, sometimes youthfulness can also be just the jolt a team needs to take the next step to contention. At least that's what the Colonials are hoping will happen for their baseball team in the upcoming season.
Colonial Heights enters the season under first-year varsity manager Gerald Carsley after having a solid campaign last year. However, a lot of the members of that team are now gone and in their place is a squad with just four seniors and a boatload of juniors and sophomores.
While that may be a cause of concern for most managers, Carsley is not among them. As he glared intently at his players taking swings off of a tee or letting it rip against live pitching in the batting cage, he liked what he saw in front of him.
What he saw was a team with a lot of raw talent and ability including a lineup that while not filled with the big-time power hitters of other teams, should be able to score some runs during the season. He knows how hard they've worked in the off-season, but most of all they are quick learners and are easily coachable.
All it took was one comment from Carsley to correct junior Fago Nightengale's penchant for dipping his shoulder to be corrected, resulting in solid line-drive contact the rest of his session. It was just one example of the type of players the manager has at his disposal.
"They've worked really hard and it looks like they are buying into the program and the direction it needs to go," Carsley said. "They're good kids, good students and they're very coachable which I can not ask for anymore than that."
But he will ask for more out of the four seniors he has on his roster. They are players who know the system and the way things need to be done to be successful and it is important the quadruplet of Matt Young, Matt Falls, Zach Stewart and Drew Mehfoud be the leaders in the clubhouse.
However, a lot of those eyes will be on Young.
The Colonials outfielder and pitcher recently just signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Bridgewater College and while it was enough to receive notice from his teammates, his work-ethic was the aspect which most stood out.
The senior always shows up to practice and works as hard as he can to perfect his craft, including taking extra swings on tee-work to make sure his hands follow through the hitting zone at the right moment and trying to lead by example.
"They see the older kids, especially with the junior varsity kids, working harder, so then the numbers grow," Carsley said of players like Young working hard each day. "Other people follow suit and it just takes off to where we need it to go."
And where it will go will likely fall on the pitching staff for the time being as the hitters struggle to find their groove during the early part of the season.
While Carsley is not concerned with his lineup, he knows his team's timing is not quite where it needs to be after suffering a scrimmage loss to Manchester last week. The Colonials struggled to put together multiple hits, but did have their moments including a Nightengale RBI single.
It's why Carsley knows it will be up to his pitching staff to shoulder the load as the season gets underway in the coming weeks.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"On Saturday, we struggled against Manchester ... they have a pretty good pitching staff and it was our first time hitting against live pitching. I'm not concerned about our offense, I know it will come around," Carsley said. "But as of right now, our pitching and defense is going to anchor us until those bats come around."
Although, another key will be trying to keep sophomore pitcher Noah Murdock from trying to do too much on the mound.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander has already verbally committed to play baseball at the University of Virginia as he possesses a fastball which tops out around 87 mph. Murdock's obvious talent is a major plus for the Colonials, but also a weakness because of Murdock's competitiveness and drive to lead his team to victory.
"He's going to have bad games and that's the thing that I've tried to get him to understand," Carsley said. "I don't expect him to be perfect just because his ceiling is high ... he's going to develop and that's all that we can ask for."
Development will be a key not just for Murdock, but the entire Colonial Heights team. Every player from Seth Markins, Zach Stoupa and even Stewart will need to take the next step because how much they improve will also determine how successful the Colonials' season will be.