Davie baseball ready for Year 3 of Coy James phenomena

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Three massive triumphs over highly-regarded East Forsyth and two playoff victories for the first time in 11 years brought back a magical feeling to Davie’s baseball program in 2023.

With the No. 1 arm and a once-in-a-generation shortstop/leadoff batter returning, the War Eagles should be just as strong, if not stronger, in 2024.

Last year, after finishing fourth in the Central Piedmont Conference (Davie was two games out of first), the War Eagles (16-11) knocked off Ragsdale and East Forsyth in the playoffs, marking two postseason wins for the first time since 2012. The run ended in the third round at Reagan, but Davie finished with the most wins in four years.

A 3-1 season series against CPC-champion East was big-time stuff considering East was 20-2 against everyone else.

“Hopefully these guys continue what we have started the past couple of years,” third-year coach Joey Anderson said.

This is Year 3 of the Coy James phenomenon. It won’t surprise anyone if James never steps foot in Oxford, Misss.; he’s ranked No. 5 among high schoolers in the 2025 MLB Draft. In 2022, he turned in the top freshman average in Davie annals (.409). As a sophomore, he posted the highest average (.451) in 10 seasons and became just the fourth Davie player to hit .400-plus twice. (No one has ever done it three times.) As a freshman/sophomore, he hit safely in 43 of 52 games and collected 73 hits, 22 doubles, six home runs, 35 walks and 24 stolen bases.

“I’m probably leaving him in the leadoff spot just to make sure he gets at least one quality at-bat,” Anderson said. “He took a little time off at the beginning of winter. He started working hard the beginning of February. He’s a different caliber of player, a different kind of guy. He’s just a class act no matter what. I like the way he leads by example. He’s not a very vocal guy. He kind of does his own thing and people tend to follow.”

As far as pitching goes, the head of the snake is senior lefty Braeden Rodgers, who has signed with Division-II Barton. He was fantastic as a junior, going 6-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 10 starts and 49.1 innings.

“Braeden threw real well last year,” Anderson said. “It’s probably going to be hard to repeat that kind of season, and that’s one thing the coaching staff has tried to explain to him. He doesn’t need to top it, he just needs to stay consistent. If he does that, he’ll be successful again. But if he tries to duplicate that season, nine out of 10 times it’s not going to go great for him. He throws three pitches for strikes and tends to keep people offbalance.”

If the No. 2 guy delivers, watch out. Seniors Cooper Bliss and Connor Berg, who has signed with D-II Emory & Henry, are expected to step in for graduated Jaydon Holder, who went 5-3 with a 2.02 ERA over 48.1 innings. Berg did a nice job in relief action last year, making 14 appearances out of the bullpen and logging 28.2 innings. Bliss will see considerably more mound time after making three appearances as a junior.

“Hopefully they step into that role and throw well,” Anderson said.

When Anderson needs to go deeper into the pitching staff, he’ll look to guys like Parker Davis, Xander Shinsky, Cole Whitaker and Tucker Hobbs. Whitaker has the most experience of the group after throwing 17 innings in three starts and seven relief outings as a junior. Unfortunately, Whitaker’s availability might be limited.

“Cole has been having arm problems,” Anderson said. “I don’t know what he’s gonna be able to give to us. We’re going to limit him and hope he can be like a closer, where he does not have to throw that many pictures.”

Anderson is intrigued by a freshman pitcher named Colin Harrison, who will start the year on JV. “I’m going to leave him on JV for a while, and he might help us later on,” he said.

Anderson has no worries at catcher. Drew Krause took a major step as a varsity sophomore, hitting .356 in 73 at-bats.

“He’s going to be a leader with the pitching staff and hitting hopefully,” he said. “He doesn’t have as much (college interest) as I’d like, but his name is coming up and he has a lot of followers.”

James’ double-play partner in the middle infield will be second baseman Carson Queen. Third base looks like Coston Colamarino’s job to lose. He’s a sophomore newcomer who has turned heads.

“Colamarino has played really well at third base and earned that spot,” Anderson said. “He’s a travel volleyball guy that likes to play baseball, too. His height and athleticism has proved to be very nice at third base.”

The first base job is up for grabs between MJ Jacobs, Corbin Angus and Kason Stewart. One of those three could wind up at DH.

“We’ve got some decisions to make at first base,” he said. “It’s going to depend on who is swinging the bat. One of them is probably gonna be a DH and the other one playing in the field.”

Anderson was counting on Ty Goodson, a two-year varsity player, in center field, but his junior year has been erased by an injury.

“Ty had surgery Feb. 22 on his arm, so he’s out,” Anderson said. “That hurts.”

The starting outfielders are undistinguished on the varsity level. Davie has Hunter Potts in left, Craig McBride in center and Bliss in right. When Bliss is on the mound, the next man up could be Will Wands.

The War Eagles, who have finished fourth in the CPC the past three seasons, are searching for their first title since 2019. It won’t be easy to end the three-season drought. Reagan appears to be the favorite, but Davie will face more obstacles than just Reagan.

“I would say Reagan has the (best) pitching and hitting, and right now I would put them down as the favorite just from what they have back,” Anderson said. “But at any point in time, you could have West or East or us or Glenn … I would say it’s going to be as even as I’ve seen it since I’ve been here. It’s going to depend on pitching.”

Notes: The top of the CPC standings in 2023: East 11-3, Reagan/West Forsyth 10-4, Davie 9-5, Glenn 8-6. … Ross Hoffner and Joey Cress are back as varsity assistants. Brandon Thalasinos is back as JV coach. A new varsity assistant is Blake Stickley. … Davie racked up 71 stolen bases last year, and Anderson is ready to run wild again. “We don’t have power hitters in our lineup, but we have guys that can go gap to gap and the speed to stretch doubles into triples and singles into doubles,” he said. … The seniors are McBride, Whitaker, Wands, Berg, Bliss, Rodgers, Jacobs and Dane Porter. The juniors are James, Shinsky, Krause, Hobbs, Stewart, Cam Owens, Queen and Angus. Colamarino is the only sophomore, and Landon Welch is the lone freshman.