Baseball full of college signees

Published 8:42 am Thursday, March 3, 2016

After going 7-15 in 2014, Davie’s varsity baseball team jumped to 12-12 last year, including a run to the conference tournament final as the No. 6 seed.

Coach Bobby Byerly’s club looks ready to take a great leap forward in 2016. Yep, with six college signees, expectations are soaring.

“We have a lot of quality and a lot of experience,” Davie’s fourth-year coach said.

The college signees are Brandon Lankford (UNC Asheville), twins Ryan and Nathan Harrell (Louisburg), Craig Colbourne (Babson in Massachusetts), Paul Davenport (Winston-Salem State) and Isaac Campbell (Gardner-Webb).

And then there’s Jalen Scott, who’s “been accepted to Catawba and he’s weighing whether he’s going to walk on or not,” Byerly said.

The catchers are seniors Davenport and Caleb Wallace. The first basemen are seniors Colbourne and Scott. The second basemen are seniors N. Harrell and Josh Byrd. The shortstops are senior R. Harrell and junior Chris Reynolds. The third basemen are senior Lankford and junior Tyler Roberts. Reynolds, junior Jake Barneycastle and senior Andrew Davidson are vying in left field. Senior Mitchell McGee and junior McKay Chamberlain are competing in center. Junior Beau Byerly, senior Campbell and junior Zach Hudspeth are battling in right.

Last year, when Davie upset Reynolds and West Forsyth in the Central Piedmont Conference Tournament before losing in the final by one run to top-seeded North Davidson, the top hitters were McGee (.375), Lankford (.313, six homers, 21 RBIs), Davenport (.293), Colbourne (.280), Reynolds (.272) and R. Harrell (.267, three HRs).

In Friday’s scrimmage against East Davidson, Davie hit a whopping .714 over 14 innings.

“We were much more aggressive than we have been in the past,” Byerly said. “Reynolds knocked the snot out of it. Nathan hit a bomb. Up and down the lineup, we hit it well. Now, that’s not CPC pitching. But we were pleased that we were putting it in play. East Davidson is young, but they have decent arms.”

Byerly trotted out eight arms against East. Campbell, Scott, both Harrells, Hudspeth, Davidson, Chamberlain and Roberts saw time on the mound, and the results were outstanding.

Last year N. Harrell went 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. Scott went 2-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 20 2/3. Although Campbell was 1-8, he was steady with a 3.08 ERA in 50 innings. He just lacked run support.

“We threw 120 pitches with 51 balls and 69 strikes,” Byerly said of the scrimmage. “We walked two batters in 14 innings. I was pleased with pitching and I was pleased defensively. We had two errors and both were thrown a little wide of the bag at first.”

Will Davie be for real in ‘16? Anything seems possible.

“When you’ve coached eight-tenths of these guys from travel ball on up, you’re eager for this group,” Byerly said. “We haven’t put in all of our plays, but we had a first-and-third situation and Jake Barneycastle remembered the signal that we had when he was 14 years old. I put on the early-steal signal and he got it. They know me and I know them. They’ve been excited to practice. It’s been a breath of fresh air to see all these boys working. We had two-a-days for two weeks where we practiced at 6:30 in the morning and again at 6 o’clock at night. They were there without a complaint. It’s a good group.”

While Davie appears capable of greatness, it is anybody’s bet in regard to the CPC race. North Davidson is ranked ninth in the 4-A poll. North, Davie, Reagan and West Forsyth are all legitimate threats to win a championship.

“North didn’t lose anybody. They’re in the same boat that we are,” he said. “Reagan is loaded with pitching. They’ve got three studs. West is always going to be good. (Doug) Welch does such a good job at Reynolds. He’s going to get the most out of them. (Mike) Lovelace is going to do the same thing (at Mt. Tabor). Again, there’s no patsies.”

Davie jumped straight into the deep end as it opened against one of the state’s best, fourth-ranked Lake Norman.

“We’re going to find out real quick what we’re made out of,” Byerly said. “(After Lake Norman) we play Ledford, which is going to be one of the top 3-A schools in the state. They’ve got a lefthanded pitcher who has committed to Campbell, and I’m sure their coach is going to save him for us.”

Byerly’s assistants are Danny Allard and Jamey Holt.