2012 Class 3A State Baseball Championship
Weddington baseball on cusp of state title, even after school redistricting
by Aaron Garcia
On Friday, June 1 at Zebulon’s Five County Stadium, the Weddington High School baseball team will face Pikeville Aycock High School in a best-of-three showdown to determine the 2012 Class 3A state champion. But in some ways, Weddington’s appearance in the series is as impressive as the potential title itself. After all, the Warriors have every reason not to be one of the last eight teams in the state still standing.
While western Union County’s population has boomed in recent years, the Warriors’ athletics program seemed to bare the brunt of the area’s rapid expansion perhaps more than any other since opening in 2000.
When Marvin Ridge opened in 2007, nearly half of Weddington’s students were relocated to the new school. Then, in 2010, Cuthbertson opened its doors and pulled even more students from Weddington, many of whom would still be wearing Warrior uniforms this spring. For example, Cuthbertson standouts Cameron Tekker (University of Virginia signee) and John Mangum (N.C. State signee) each were starters for the Warriors as freshmen before Cuthbertson opened its doors.
Weddington coach Travis Poole, however, said he never allowed himself or his players to feel victimized by the process, though he did acknowledge that he thought it would take “a year or two” to rebuild the program to where it was before the split with Cuthbertson.
“The thing these kids have done a great job of is sticking with each other and sticking with what we do since Day 1,” said Poole. “The only thing (the county’s expansion) affected was our (population) numbers.
“Don’t get me wrong – losing guys like that does hurt. But at the same time, we’ve had guys that stepped in and never missed a beat.”
It’s not that Weddington’s trip to Zebulon this weekend is really all that surprising. Poole said he entered the season with a fair amount of optimism since he had some valuable pieces returning from a young 2011 edition that went 15-10 and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. The Warriors won three of their first five games of the season against Charlotte powers Ardrey Kell (by a 1-0 score), Charlotte Christian (2-0) and Providence (7-6).
“I knew this group had a chance to be pretty good when they put it all together,” said Poole.
Even with such impressive wins, though, the Warriors had a lot to improve on. Headed into the Toxey-Griffin Memorial Spring Break Tournament at Sun Valley, the Warriors were 9-5 overall but only were averaging 3.6 runs per game while allowing 2.8.
Then, during the spring break tournament, the Warriors exploded for 12 runs against both Piedmont and Forest Hills in successive days.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain,” said sophomore Daniel Calabretta of the sudden offensive boost. “All of a sudden, we just started (hitting).”
Bostic said the players improved their patience at the plate and started waiting for pitches they could drive, and junior Jeremy Schellhorn said it was the season’s turning point.
“Things just started clicking when we were hitting it,” Schellhorn said. “At that moment, we kind of figured out we had a chance to make a run.”
Since the opening of the Toxey-Griffin tournament, the Warriors have gone 15-1. Perhaps more impressive, they’ve scored 132 runs (8.25 per game average) while only allowing 24 (1.5 per game).
Now, the Warriors have a chance to earn Union County’s first state baseball title since Forest Hills grabbed a 2A championship in 1997. The only other local schools to win state baseball titles are Sun Valley (1977) and Piedmont (1984). To put that in perspective, most of the players in Weddington’s senior class were just 4 years old when Forest Hills claimed its crown.
Perhaps even more significant, a win this weekend would be Weddington’s first team state title in any sport since its cross country team won in 2003.
“That’s kind of crazy,” said junior Alex Bostic. “I wish we could finally bring one back to Weddington and let everyone around us celebrate.”
“Oh, man, it would be real nice,” Poole said. “It’s hard to get there, but from my understanding, it’s even harder to win it. The good thing is we’ve got to win two more (games).
“I think it would be good for the entire area and our school,” Poole added. “Just the atmosphere when you can do that and you’re able to show, for one year, that you finished on top, that says a lot.”