Calhoun Academy still rolling with third coach in three years
By C.R. Cumbee
St. Matthews—Usually when a team has three head coaches in three years, there isn’t much success to show for it. However, the Calhoun Academy baseball team is bucking that trend.
Former coach Adam Jarecki left for a job at Wilson Hall two years ago, and Bill Spiers accepted a coaching position on the Clemson football staff last summer.
New head coach Todd Layton took over this spring and the Cavaliers haven’t missed a beat. The team is currently 10-1 overall and a perfect 6-0 in region play.
“I can’t say I expected it, but I’m not surprised either. These guys know how to prepare to win and what it takes to win. I’ve been real pleased with their work ethic and attitude, and they’ve been a good group to work with,” Layton said.
Although Layton is a newcomer to the program, the Cavaliers have managed to have a bit of stability on the staff during this recent run.
“One of the constants here has been assistant coach Tripp Crosby. He was here when Coach Jarecki was here and when Coach Spiers was here. He’s been a huge asset for us and I think that’s helped a lot,” Layton said.
Calhoun Academy has plenty of seniors on the roster who have experienced success in the past, having won a baseball state title in the spring of 2015 while following that up with a football championship later that fall. Their chemistry has been a huge positive to start this year.
“I don’t think they’ve done anything different than they’ve done in the past. I wasn’t here, but I knew of all these kids. I wouldn’t say there’s a sense of urgency for them. I think they’re business as usual,” Layton said.
Another key to the season has been the pitching. Caleb Crosby, Kyle Gray and Chris Phillips have seen the most action on the mound while holding opposing offenses at bay.
“Pitching has been the biggest strength. With the new pitch count rules, Caleb and Kyle have started our region games and Chris has come in in relief. All three have done a real good job and carried us this year,” Layton said.
Crosby will also catch and play shortstop while Gray is a first baseman. Evan Inabinet will inhabit whatever position is vacated by the starting pitcher.
Other defensive starters include second baseman/pitcher Lawton Wright, middle infielder Fuller Prickett, third baseman Ford Conger, and outfielders A.T. Hughes, Elijah Ott and Chandler Williams. Taylor Bonnette is the designated hitter.
“The defense has been pretty solid. Unfortunately, we’re in a position that we have to move so many people around when we make pitching changes. Guys have had to play multiple positions, but they’ve done a good job of adjusting and adapting to that,” Layton said.
Also on the roster this season is Dillon Johnson, Weston Davis, Val Fogle, Travis Shirer and Russell Bourgeois.
While the Cavaliers are undefeated in their region, Layton admits they haven’t faced the best the conference has to offer. Calhoun Academy still has upcoming contests with Williamsburg and Robert E. Lee, two teams that have championship aspirations. The head coach believes those games will be determined by whoever pitches the best and makes fewest errors.
“We’re coming off of spring break and we won both games we played that week, but I’m glad that’s over and done with. We’re playing well and were hitting the ball up until spring break, so I’m anxious to see how we react to the second half of the season,” Layton said.
Orangeburg-Calhoun athletes to be honored at banquet
By C.R. Cumbee
Orangeburg—The High School Sports Report will hold its annual winter sports awards banquet April 23rd at 3 p.m. at Seawell’s in Columbia, and there will be a handful of athletes from Orangeburg and Calhoun counties who will take home trophies for their accomplishments this past season.
In public school basketball, Orangeburg-Wilkinson point guard Autheria Dantzler was named to the Class 4A all-state team after leading the Bruinettes to a second-place finish in the region and a first-round playoff victory.
The junior was the only returning starter this year and ended the season averaging 12 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 steals per game.
“She is super athletic and fast. It’s hard to teach a kid to be a point guard. It has to be in you. She’s a student of the game and she continues to get better as a point guard. I’m on her very hard and she catches a lot of heat from me. There’s a lot of pressure because O-W is known for having some great point guards,” Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Cedrick Simpson said of his star player earlier this year.
In SCHSL boys’ basketball, Calhoun County’s Camryn Johnson earned Class AA all-state honors. The senior was a star on the gridiron for the Saints as well and signed a football scholarship with Georgia State in February.
Among the SCISA ranks, the Calhoun Academy girls’ basketball team played in its first title game in more than two decades. With the 25-5 finish, the Lady Cavaliers had three players make the Class AA all-state team, including senior Erin Roland.
“She’s a tough cookie at point guard,” Calhoun Academy head coach Wendy Walker said of Roland. “You can slap at her, roll her over, whatever, she’s going to come right back. She doesn’t get frazzled. Without her, we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”
Joining Roland in that select group are seniors Sarah Swatts and Kendall Fleming, who averaged 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“Kendall came out hot for us with three-pointers. She was very valuable for us because we had established an inside game. She was amazing on the outside and that helped us tremendously,” Walker said.
Orangeburg Prep’s Logan Holmes was the lone representative from his school, earning a spot on the SCISA all-state wrestling team after finishing second at the state meet in the 145-pound weight class.