PHCC baseball, softball encouraged by success

May 16, 2014

Patrick Henry Community College’s (PHCC) baseball and softball teams already feel optimistic about 2015 after the way the teams performed this spring.10299967_752964154735206_3810085942354420699_n

The baseball team, which rose as high as No. 6 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II rankings, saw a remarkable season come to an end Sunday in the Region X tournament. The softball team ran off four straight victories to win its region tournament and nearly earned a chance to playing in the NJCAA World Series, losing to the nation’s No. 10 team last Friday.

While neither team managed to get to the World Series, there were plenty of awards won and memorable moments made that helped define each Patriots squad.

Nine combined players landed on all-Region X teams. First-year baseball coach Lucas Jones was named the region’s coach of the year, while freshman Stibel Aleman Saba earned the region’s player of the year honor despite missing 15 games during the season.

“When it comes to coach of the year, it’s a collaborative effort,” Jones said. “From your assistant coaches and their work, to the players themselves, obviously, without team success the individual success isn’t going to be recognized as much.

“I wouldn’t trade this team for a championship team or championship trophy,” he added. “I think what they instilled and did helped the stability of the program in moving forward.”

The Patriots (38-16) entered the Region X tournament in Morehead City, N.C. as the conference’s No. 2 team, but lost their opener to Lenoir Community College. After fighting back with two blowout wins, PHCC was clipped by the tourney’s No. 1 ranked team, Catawba Valley College, 8-5.

CVCC won a three-game series at Hooker Field from April 18-19. It was that series loss and the one the weekend before to Rockingham Community College that Jones said tested the resolve of his team. The Patriots went on to win eight of their next nine going into the region tournament.

Jones said that despite having a young team, the players at PHCC have established a culture of accountability.

“We didn’t have any attitudes; only selfless attitudes and a bunch of the guys bought into their roles,” he said. “Even in Game 4 of the loser’s bracket in the Region X tournament, you saw guys play to the final out.”

Many of the freshman this season played a integral part in the team’s success. Jones expects to bring back the bulk of his bullpen and weekend starter Scott Spradlin, who was a second-team all-Region X selection. Jones believes that group has several players that can fill the leadership roles left behind by the sophomores. It’s a core group that helped keep the Patriots in the national rankings the entire time since its initial showing in late March.

“Any time you can bring the school some national attention and consistently play well enough to stay in that top 20, it just says a lot about our players,” he said.

As for the Patriots’ softball team, first-year head coach Amanda Warley simply wanted to improve her squad one game at a time. With no expectation of making a deep postseason run, the way her team performed in the Region X tournament was a surprise, she said.

A home series sweep of Louisburg College and another against Wake Tech two weeks prior to the region tournament helped get the Patriots in a winning frame of mind, she said.

“If you would’ve talked to me before that Louisburg, game I probably would’ve told you that we wouldn’t have done too well (during the tournament),” Warley said. “I think there was a very visible shift in momentum, and anyone could tell they were going to do well and not give up. It was awesome to see them click and become the solid ball team that they were.”

The Patriots took care of Southeastern Community College 9-4 in the opening game of the region tourney, a win Warley said gave her team the boost it needed in facing No. 18 ranked and the tournament’s top seed Richard Bland College in the next game. PHCC held on for a 2-1 win in that game after scoring two early runs. They went on to win consecutive games against Florence-Darlington C.C. for the region title.

Entering the District P championship series in Hendersonville, Tenn. against No. 10 Lincoln Land Community College, Warley said her team was excited but nervous. The nerves showed in an 11-1 loss in the opener. In Game 2, the Patriots were only down 1-0 entering the sixth inning, when a two-run home run effectively ended the season. Warley said the response in the second game was a positive way to go out.

“For them, seeing what they did, knowing what they did, and facing a team like that, I hope next year they can come back and realize how good they are when they focus,” she said. “They just matured as players, and for the freshman, having a whole year under their belt will hopefully help them stay positive.”

The PHCC softball team finished with 22 wins, not bad considering it had only12 heading into the final few weeks of the season. With two first-team all-region selections, catcher Allison Pentony and outfielder Morgan Revels, three second-team honorees, Warley said there is plenty to build off of for next season with the way her team finished this spring.

“Everything will not always go as you planned but in the end it definitely pays off. I hope to build on this each year I coach from here on,” she said.

Filed under: Baseball, Softball