Baseball team off to surprising start in 2017
By David Shelton
Lake View – After losing a handful of valuable players to graduation after last season, Lake View head baseball coach Kip Herlong came into the 2017 season with plenty of questions.
Herlong admits to being somewhat surprised at how well his team has played through the first half of the season. The Wild Gators entered April with a 9-2 record overall and a perfect 5-0 start in region 6-A play. Lake View has won eight straight games heading into an April 6th region game against East Clarendon.
“I am a little surprised that we’ve been able to piece things together so well early but the kids have worked really hard,” said Herlong, who has guided the program to seven state titles and two runner-up finishes. “We lost some really good players who had been around for a long time. We don’t have all our pitching healthy yet but we have managed to do pretty well there. So far, so good.”
This year’s roster also includes several seniors. However, Herlong says being a senior does not necessarily mean a lot of game experience.
“It’s a senior-oriented group overall but some of these seniors really have not played a lot because of the guys that have been ahead of them in the last few years,” the coach said. “We have a few that are still learning their way. They’re coming along but we have to keep improving.”
Senior Nick Collins has been the ace of the pitching staff early on, notching three wins with a 0.81 earned run average. The USC-Lancaster signee has 37 strikeouts in 26 innings of work this season.
“Nick has been very steady and is proving to be one of our leaders on the field,” Herlong said.
Senior Duane Nichols has managed two pitching victories with a 2.10 earned run average in 16 innings. Sophomore Jaleek Roberts has performed well in relief.
Lake View hopes to get senior Brent Herlong more innings in the second half of the season. Herlong has been nursing a sore back but is starting to get more active as a pitcher.
“He will be a big help if he’s able to get through the back issues,” Herlong said.
Collins and Herlong are the team’s top offensive threats early on, each hitting .417 through 11 games. Herlong has a team-high 14 RBI’s.
Junior third baseman DeAnte Bridgette is hitting .414 and has scored 13 runs while senior right fielder Hunter Stevens is hitting .375. Senior catcher Stone Spivey has his batting average up to .292 and senior first baseman Justin Elliott is hitting .331.
Junior Webb Cardwell, the designated hitter, is hitting an even .400 after 11 games while Nichols is at .294. Senior Tyler Davis is sharing catching duties with Spivey and each alternates time in the outfield. Darius Ford also sees playing time in centerfield when Nichols pitches.
“We are built around pitching and defense, throwing strikes and making the routine plays,” Herlong said. “We’re not a greatly talented offensive team but I do think we can hit better overall than we have been. We need to get some guys going offensively for us to have a chance.”
Lake View managed to go unscathed through the first round of region play but Herlong expects plenty of competition down the stretch. The coach feels Hannah-Pamplico may be the best team in the region overall. Lake View beat the Raiders, 3-0, earlier this season. East Clarendon also has talented players.
“It’s a really balanced region overall and the teams are pretty equal,” Herlong said. “We have been fortunate so far but the games have been close and could have gone either way. It’s far from over. Any team can still win this region. There isn’t a game left on our schedule where we feel we can just show up and win. We have to keep improving and become more consistent.”
Lake View has been a perennial playoff participant and is usually one of the final few teams left in state title contention. Can the 2017 Wild Gators make a run at the class A championship?
“The potential is there and we feel like we are developing well,” Herlong said. “We hope to put a run together. There is a lot of fight to this group. They play hard and they are very competitive. We’ll see. Hopefully we can put ourselves in position to make a run.”
Lake View’s softball team also finds itself in region title contention with a few weeks to play. The team enters April at 5-2 in region play, 7-2 overall.
Lake View has been very good offensively this season, led by Spivey Evans, who has 25 hits and is hitting .532 on the season. Evans also has scored 21 runs and has nine RBI’s.
Jasmine Ford is hitting .475 with 12 runs scored and 10 RBI’s while Savannah Church is hitting .441 with 11 RBI’s.
Alex Elliott is hitting .408 with 20 hits and 16 runs scored and Logan Spivey is hitting .400 with 14 runs scored and 11 RBI’s.
Other key hitters include Madison Greene (.308), Sarah Evans (.364, 10 RBI’s) and Payton Bell (.308, 12 RBI’s).
Spivey and Grace Floyd continue to share the pitching duties equally.