PROSPERITY — Mid-Carolina High School baseball has a new skipper this year as former junior varsity head coach and varsity pitching Coach Daniel Gregory takes the reins. His job comes with high expectations.
Depending on the publication, MCHS ranks from number four to number one in AA Baseball preseason rankings.
Gregory said the recognition is an honor that reflects the history of winning baseball and the success of his predecessors as much as it reflects his current team.
He feels like this year’s bunch of Rebels is the most complete team MCHS has fielded in a few years, noting how they have solid defense, talent, power hitters and intangibles.
“Other teams here have been really talented and had outstanding players, but this one is complete up and down the lineup from one to nine,” Gregory said. “We really are trying to make a playoff run this year.”
Gregory said this bunch values team success over individual accolades and credits their parents and former coaches for instilling that mindset and his assistant coaches for helping cultivate it.
Top returning players include junior catcher Duncan Croutwell, senior shortstop Justin Hawkins and junior center fielder Danton Hyman.
Gregory said Justin Hawkins and Stoudemire are his best power hitters though some other Rebels have some pop in their bats.
Hyman is the lead-off hitter who makes the offense go as he draws walks and steals bases to go along with a .400 batting average from last year.
Middle infielder Chris Edwards and outfielder Ty Glymph are the other two seniors who provide a lot of leadership, according to their coach.
Seniors are the captains who handle day-to-day goings on, team meetings and uniform color choices among other things.
“Our guys are not only talented, but coaches and players from other teams compliment us on how they play the game the right way,” he said.
He expects a lot from his players and said junior second baseman Cole Shealy is one who really has caught his eye.
“Cole Shealy has come on strong. He really dedicated himself to becoming a better all around athlete in the weight room and with conditioning. At 5 foot 7, he is a wiry, scrappy player. He is faster this year and hits the ball harder but what sets him apart is his work ethic,” he said.
Two players join the team from the junior varsity in second baseman/shortstop Cole Shealy and infielder/third baseman Brett Fraizer.
Corey Stone, Logan Folk, Philip Taylor could add outfield depth and move up and down from JV to varsity if needed.
Gregory has three solid starting pitchers in senior Josh Haney, junior Danton Hyman and sophomore Ryan Stoudemire.
While none are flame throwers, he said all of them mix their pitches and change speeds well.
Gregory, a college catcher at Limestone, will call the pitches from the dugout. He prefers that so his high school catchers can focus on being good receivers and not be responsible for calling a game.
He has confidence in his staff of assistant coaches: former MCHS standout Kyle Branham, JV Head Coach/Pitching Coach David Gates and assistant Amp Robertson.
Gregory said he is comfortable playing small ball or waiting on a three-run homer.
“These guys know the game, so we can call what a situation calls for, he said. More often than not we like to run and to do hit-and-run plays to protect runners. That said, sometimes we have to let our hot hitting players swing the bats so that power comes through,” he said.
The formula is working.
MCHS went 3-1 at the Carolina Ale House Classic, defeating three AAAA schools. He thanked MCHS parents and fans for their support there, noting MCHS had four-five times the number of fans as other schools at the classic.