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Baseball enters season at No. 11

February 11, 2016

By: CHRIS PRIDE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) baseball team has patiently waited for its chance to start the season, and it will do so Friday (Feb. 12) as the No. 11 ranked team in NJCAA, Division II.

With a group of 14 returning sophomores — seven of those starters — first-year PHCC coach Frank Jagoda inherits a team that went 39-16 last season and 14-5 in Region X. Along with some key sophomore transfers, Jagoda said the makeup of his team is one that can contend for a conference title and make the national tournament. As for the preseason ranking, Jagoda knows it’s just a number based on last season and that this year’s team hasn’t accomplished anything yet.

“The mood’s been good but I think we’re at the point where we have cabin fever,” Jagoda said. “I think these guys are chomping at the bit to get out there and are sick of seeing each other. We’re ready to get on the bus and go play some baseball against some other competition.”

Jagoda brings with him a wealth of baseball knowledge and experience at all levels. Jagoda served as Wingate University recruiting coordinator and pitching coach, and managed the overall baseball operations for the Division II NCAA program. Before landing at Wingate, he coached at Canisius College, leading the program to its first ever D1 NCAA tournament berth in 2013 when the team ventured to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the regionals.

He also served as a head coach in the NYCBL, the New York wooden bat summer league for collegiate players. Jagoda has experience at the junior college level, as well, coaching at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, N.Y.

The success of the Patriots could very well lie within their pitching staff which returns No. 1 and No. 2 weekend starters Jack Maynard (Crozet, Va.) and Yashuan Santiago (Puerto Rico). Maynard, who has signed to play at D1 University of North Carolina-Greensboro, finished the 2015 season with a 9-3 record and an ERA of 1.36, along with 72 strikeouts to 15 walks over 86.1 innings. Santiago finished with 67 strikeouts over 64.1 innings last season and an ERA or 1.82.

Maynard said the pitching staff as a whole is deeper than last season. With a good rotation of starters, it’s the bullpen that ranges from long relievers, to set-up men and closers that makes him feel confident in the overall pitching this season. The staff finished with a 3.32 ERA and allowed just 17 home runs over 400-plus innings of work. It also allowed fewer than 100 walks, finishing with 90.

“It’s great to go out there, Game 1, fight to get that win and get the momentum on your side for the rest of the weekend; I loved it,” Maynard said. “Last year, I think people picked up from what other people were doing and were able to put together good starts. Our bullpen was good and it seemed beneficial for everybody else.”

Bassett High School graduate Kemper Terry, a Division I transfer from Longwood University in Farmville, Va., should complete the weekend rotation and gives the staff a reliable left-handed pitcher. Jagoda looks for Terry to eat up innings and be able to come in during special situations and lock down opponents when needed. Jared Bridges (Rocky Mount, Va.), a product of Franklin County High School will also vie for innings with Terry.

Returning arms include Anthony Zona (Mechanicsville, Va.) and Miguel Lopez (Coral Springs, Fla.). Freshman entering the fold include Robert Fitzwater (Suffolk, Va.), Rhett Miller (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Parker Brann (Leasburg, N.C.)

Aiding to the pitching staff this season is VCU transfer, sophomore Ryan Coale, who will take over behind the plate. Coale was part of a Rams team that defeated Dallas Baptist in Texas in the regional portion of the NCAA Division I tournament. They then fell in two games to seeded University of Miami in the Super Regionals. Coale started in 11 of 27 games but hit just .125 in 48 at bats. He said the transfer to PHCC was for personal reasons and that the situation presented in Martinsville was one he couldn’t pass on.

Coale could also see time in the outfield while splitting time behind the plate with returning sophomore Kelvin Marte (Richmond, Va.) and freshman Roger Sosa (Puerto Rico).

“I think stepping in and knowing I was going to have some great guys on the bump that could throw strikes and mix pitches, it takes a lot of stress out of being a catcher… I’m really excited to have a fresh start and to be part of this group,” Coale said. “The chemistry is good, we get after it and work hard together.”

The middle infield is anchored by sophomore returnees Jonah McReynolds (Martinsville, Va.) and Rashad Stewart (Dinwiddie, Va.). Jagoda feels his team has one of the most athletic infields in Region X and that the pair can not only be sound defensively but also can add some potency in the lineup, offensively. Sophomore Aaron Nanney (Gastonia, N.C.) along with newcomers Brandon Nania (Murrysville, Pa.) and Billy Keegan (Seekonk, Mass.) also adds speed in the heart of the batting order.

In the outfield, the Patriots have to replace the star-studded trio of Nic Keister, Daymon Totherow and Stibel Aleman Saba. Replacing them will be freshman Montae Bradshaw (Prince George, Va.), Cody Powers (Mechanicsville, Va.) and Andrew Lancaster (Danville, Va.). Freshman Henry Duval (Puerto Rico) and sophomore Jerald Negron (Puerto Rico) also gives the outfield depth and stability, especially on the defensive side, Jagoda said. Powers can also pitch and will be used when needed to help fill innings.

The 56-game season starts at USC-Lancaster with a pair of doubleheaders. The Patriots open play at Hooker Field on Feb. 20-21 with a doubleheader set against Region X rival Louisburg College.

 

 

Filed under: Baseball

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