Athens Drive baseball team enters the 2014 season with winning attitude

After struggling in recent seasons, the Athens Drive Baseball team is ready to compete in the most feared high school baseball conference in North Carolina

Daulton Bahm, Assistant Online Editor

After nearly nine months of inactivity, baseball is finally on its way for Athens Drive High School.  The first game will be played Wed., Feb. 26, and the season will last until Tues., May 6.

For his third year now, Ryan Westbrook, social studies teacher, will be the head Varsity coach. After nearly two weeks of tryouts and practices, the first game will be played at Sanderson.  The team will play 20 games, nine of which will be home games.  Most of the home games will be played at either 4:00 or 4:30 pm, while some away games will be played at 7:00 pm.   Admission to any of the baseball games is $5.

Most of the early-season games, however, will be played on the road; all of the first four games are away games at Sanderson, Heritage, Leesville and Cardinal Gibbons.  The Athens Drive home opener is set for Fri., March 7 against Southeast Raleigh High in a nonconference game.

At the first practice, Feb. 17, which had been postponed due to inclement weather, coaches began to prepare both the JV and Varsity baseball teams for the upcoming season.  The players worked in the batting cages, fielded ground balls and fly balls, and also worked on baserunning.

Coach Westbrook seems to have an optimistic outlook at his Varsity team.  The team has struggled in recent seasons, but a new offseason practicing program has given the team a chance at winning the division.

“I’m hoping we will do well this season. We have practiced a lot this offseason and hope all of this work will pay off and take us to the playoffs,” said Westbrook.

The Athens Drive team will need a quality pitching staff for success.  Without quality pitching, the other team can easily score runs.  Westbrook has been impressed with his pitching staff.  He has noted that his pitchers are not the hardest throwing pitchers in the country, but they know how to pitch and can strike batters out more easily than the hard throwers can.

“We don’t have a lot of pitchers that throw very hard, but we do have a lot of pitchers that have experience and can throw strikes,” Westbrook said.

Athens Drive High School is part of a conference in the Triangle area that includes teams such as Apex, Cary, Green Hope, Middle Creek, Holly Springs, Fuquay and Panther Creek.  This conference is known as the most feared in the state by many high school baseball coaches, including Westbrook.

“We play in the best conference in the entire state of North Carolina.  Fuquay is the number one team in the league right now.  Holly Springs, Apex and Green Hope High Schools are all excellent as well,” said Westbrook.

Power hitting is a major part of baseball because it is necessary to win games.  Power hitting is the production of runs from power, like extra-base hits and home runs.  Westbrook seems to think that Athens has a fair amount of power hitters, but a change of bat type may limit their number of home runs.

“There are still power hitters, and they still will hit home runs, just not as many as they used to before the bat standard changed a couple years ago,” Westbrook said.

Baserunning is when players on one team aggravate the other by stealing bases (when a player runs to the next base just before a pitch is thrown) or executing other forms of smart baserunning, like tagging up to advance one base after a fly ball out. Westbrook has said that his team has some very fast runners that will make the other team angry.

“We have about three or four really good speedsters on this team that will help us win games.  They will aggravate the other team with their aggressive baserunning,” said Westbrook.

The baseball season can be an exciting time for students, not only for players but also for fans.  Who the opening day starting pitcher will be remains to be seen. According to Westbrook, they have a strong staff of control pitchers, fast runners and power hitters, all of which are considered by many to be important aspects of performing well in the game of baseball. These next two-and-a-half months will have plenty of baseball for all fans, and Athens Drive looks to have a great season with great talent on their 2014 baseball team.