Holly Hill baseball looking to make run at state title again
By David Shelton
Holly Hill – The baseball program at Holly Hill Academy has become quite adept at contending for state titles over the last several years.
Holly Hill won its fourth state title in six years last season and looks to be a contender again in 2017 under first-year head coach Ashley Brunson.
The Raiders are off to a 5-2 start this season, dropping a conference game to Patrick Henry Academy and a non-conference game to Calhoun Academy. Brunson says his team is just starting to reach a level of consistency this season.
“Like a lot of the smaller schools in SCISA, several of our baseball players also play basketball so we really didn’t have everyone out until a few days before our first game,” said Brunson, who has served in various capacities within the program over the last several years. “We are still finding ourselves a bit. We have a good nucleus of guys returning but we lost five really good players from last year’s team. It has taken us some time to bring it all together but we’re headed in a good direction overall.”
Brunson says most of the early season struggles have come defensively. Through seven games, the Raiders have allowed only five earned runs but defensive inconsistency is making things difficult.
“Our defense, really all over the field, has been a concern but we’re working every day to get better,” Brunson said. “I feel like we have the pitching and I think we will hit okay enough. We have to be better at making routine plays.”
Hanks Avinger and Nick Strickland are team leaders offensively and on the mound this spring. Avinger is hitting .615 early on with a pair of homeruns and nine RBI’s while posting three pitching victories.
Strickland is hitting .524 with a team-high 12 runs batted in and has two wins on the mound.
“They sort of lead us and we know what to expect from Hanks and Nick,” Brunson said. “A lot of people pitch around Hanks because he is a definite threat offensively. We hit Nick behind Hanks and he realizes he has to produce, and he has so far.”
Leadoff hitter John Brown is hitting over .400 and has scored 11 runs in seven games. Outfielder Evan Boyd is hitting just under .400.
Adding depth on the mound are Josh Siau and Andrew Siau. Josh Siau also starts at shortstop.
“Every team has at least one ace pitcher and Hanks is that guy for us,” Brunson said. “With the new pitch count rules it has become really important to develop more guys. I like our pitching depth overall. We feel like that can be an advantage for us over the course of the season.”
Having players who have contributed to state championship seasons in the past means the Raiders can play with confidence. Brunson feels like his 2017 team can make a title run.
“We’re not there yet but the potential is certainly there,” the coach said. “We have a good group of guys. If they work hard and continue to improve, especially defensively, we definitely can be one of the teams in contention. The month of April is very important for us.”