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Caroline High School’s varsity baseball team is taking a whole new look this year, not only with the change of the conference situation, but also with the graduation of the main offensive producers from last year.
The Conference in itself presents a daunting schedule with state AAA champion Hanover High School in the mix as well as Richmond area teams Glen Allen, J.R. Tucker and Midlothian High Schools.
The Battlefield District continues to be strong this year as District powerhouses Chancellor and King George look to field strong teams. One of those standouts is Jason Morgan, the Chancellor right-handed pitcher with a 94-mph fastball, who last year during his junior year committed to pitch for the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina. Many players in the Battlefield District are likely to be on edge at the prospect of having to face the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder again this year.
King George has a top senior pitcher in Lane Ward this year, having already promised to pitch for Norfolk State University. Ward is a 5-10, 160-pound right-handed pitcher who throws in the mid to upper 80s. Ward also earned 2013 Underclass Honorable Mention All-America honors by Perfect Game and is ranked the No. 12 right-handed pitcher in Virginia.
Like last year, Coach Frank Dow will be fielding a team consisting of only eleven players. The offensive production of the Shiflett twins (Joe and Will), Rory Smith and Alex Jeter will not be around this year due to graduation.
So the batting responsibility falls on the shoulders of this year’s seniors, Justin Pitts at third, Colin Hess at second base, Taylor Buchanan at first, Adam Desjarlais pitching, Jake Dutton and Buck Didlake in the outfield. Junior Ryan Hickman rounds out the fielding assignments behind the plate when he is not working the mound. Hickman and Desjarlais last year were stellar on the mound for Caroline last year as they both showed excellent control and placement. Desjarlais last year pitched a no-hitter for the Cavaliers.
Four players from last year’s JV squad look to add strength to varsity. Rashaard Harris will be filling in at the short stop position, while Cole Grindy’s pitching and bat will be helpful along with his play at first. Alex Desjarlais will be pitching and outfielding, and Jay Chapman will play outfield. Stephen Miller looks to come up from JV as needed.
“The trick to playing this year is to play hard during the regular season, but at the same time be able to peak at the right time for the conference tournament,” Dow said. “It’s all about winning at the right time.”
Caroline has always had strong fielding, but this year the bats have got to swing and swing effectively. Last year, there were a number of games that were lost by one or two when the offense broke down scoring few, if any runs. The power teams in Conference 4 South will make easy pickings of any squad without a strong presence at the plate.
On March 18, the Cavaliers are scheduled to start their season with a home stand against Glen Allen High School. During spring break in April, they will be traveling to a tournament on the coast of North Carolina.