Charlotte Christian battles way to 11th state baseball championship
by Andrew Stark
Not long ago, Charlotte Christian dominated the private-school baseball landscape, winning eight state titles from 2000 to 2009. The Knights had not won since, but they changed that with a two-game sweep of High Point Wesleyan Christian last weekend.
The Knights defeated Wesleyan Christian, 13-8, on May 18, scoring nine runs in the sixth inning. They closed out their 11th N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championship with a 2-1 victory in a pitchers duel on May 19.
The Knights (32-7) collected just four hits in the final game, scoring two unearned runs in the fourth inning on an error by the leftfielder. That was enough for Bailey Ober, who pitched a complete game and allowed just two hits and one unearned run while striking out seven.
“We just kept battling out there as we have done all season,” said Ober. “I felt like if we could score a couple of runs I could shut them down and we’d have a good chance to win. We played tough competition all season to get ready for this, but right now it feels great. It’s the best feeling in the world. I can’t even describe it.”
Colin Kellermeyer, one of six Knights seniors, collected one of Charlotte Christian’s four hits and scored what turned out to be the winning run in the championship game. He said that when the Knights got behind in games this season they had the confidence that they were going to come back and win.
“I consider these guys family,” Kellermeyer said. “It has been that way all season – when someone gets down we pick them up. I’m just so proud of the guys and the way we came together. We had confidence and we had the feel of a close-knit family.”
Senior lead-off man William Grigg said it was important to him to help lead the Knights to a title and that he’s proud the seniors will go out as state champions.
“You look out there and see all of the banners hanging up of the kids who have played here before us,” Grigg said. “It is great to have one hanging that we helped to put out there. It adds to the legacy of the school and cements our place in the history.”
Coach Greg Simmons pointed to the Fort Lauderdale Sunshine Classic tournament in March, when the Knights won four consecutive games, as the catalyst that got the team’s confidence soaring.
“After that tournament and then when we took a 4-2 lead on (Providence’s standout pitcher Ty) Buttrey into the seventh (inning) at the Jack Sink (tournament), we knew we could play with anyone,” Simmons said. “It is always about execution for us, but we played great defensively most of the year and had great pitching.
“We want our kids to play with courage. You have to have courage in your ability, and if you make a mistake, that’s OK, but don’t make two in a row. They have bought into that this season.”
The 2012 team, Simmons said, was aided by a group of seniors who set the foundation last year.
“Those seniors told the guys what they expected of them, and this team embraced those expectations. It was a special group,” Simmons said.
Other members of the 2012 Knights’ championship team are seniors Erik Markwat, Matthew Carpenter, William Stillman and Devland Zakar; juniors Wesley Foskey, Nicholas Henderson, Brett Milleman, Thomas Nantz, Matthew Simmons and Patrick Haynes; sophomores Steven Hall, Alexander Gum, Zachary McIlroy, Landon Kay, Nick Owens and Garrett Bradbury; and freshman Joshua Hall.
While the Knights are still celebrating their most recent title, they’re probably the early favorites to repeat next season. Charlotte Christian will lose just three players who started in the championship game: Carpenter, Grigg and Kellermeyer.
“We return pretty much everybody and we will be a little older and more experienced next season,” Simmons said. “It certainly could be a good year, but everyone will know what we have coming back, too.
“This (state championship) is good right now, so we are going to enjoy it for a while.”