Charlotte Christian’s baseball team will face Wesleyan Christian Academy in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A state championship series at Ravenscroft in Raleigh Friday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 20 at noon and if necessary, a game three 30 minutes after game two.
The best of three series is a rematch of the 2015 state championship, which the Knights won in dominating fashion. However, the Trojans are the reigning champions and aren’t going to give up their crown without a fight.
Longtime Knights’ skipper Greg Simmons said there aren’t going to be any shortcuts.
“They’re a good all around team,” Simmons said. “We’ll have to play a good game to have a chance to beat them.”
He’s right. No. 2-seeded Wesleyan (25-1) hits the ball, pitches and fields well. One would be hard pressed to find a glaring weakness in the Trojans.
N.C. State commit and senior Patrick Bailey (.517 batting average), sophomore Caleb Cozart (.435 batting average), junior Jackson Prillaman (.420 batting average), South Carolina commit and junior Brett Kerry (.394 batting average), junior Jacob Kohns (.376 batting average), junior Mark McLamb (.328 batting average) and junior Nick Caldwell (.355 batting average) give Wesleyan coach Scott Davis a bevy of dependable hitters, who can make contact, advance and score runners.
Kerry (0.13 ERA and 9-1 record), Louisburg commit and senior Luke Davis (1.33 ERA and 8-0 record) and Cozart (0.97 ERA and 5-0 record) have been stellar on the mound, mowing down batter after batter.
Top-seeded Charlotte Christian (30-3, 14-1 CISSA) should be up for the challenge though. The Knights match up well at the plate, on the mound and in the field.
Senior catcher Drew Donathan (.415 batting average), senior outfielder/infielder Nick Murrer (.385 batting average), sophomore infielder Trey Donathan (.354 batting average), junior pitcher/outfielder Jonathan Jagielski (.383 batting average), senior Andrew Durden (.356 batting average), junior outfielder Reid Mayers (.378 batting average) and junior infielder Jonah Beamon (.328 batting average) give Simmons a slew of reliable batters.
Senior pitcher Scottie Wallace (1.26 ERA and 8-0 record) and Jagielski (1.71 ERA and 7-1 record) have been scintillating on the mound as Charlotte Christian’s ace arms.
Simmons has seen a bunch of young players step up at critical moments throughout the course of the season. For example, sophomore pitcher Matthew Silverling had a no hitter through five innings to help lead the Knights to a 5-2 win over Providence Day in the semifinals Tuesday, May 16. What made Silverling’s performance even more impressive is that it came in his fifth start of the season.
“He did a great job for us and then we handed the ball to two seniors,” Simmons said. “They finished it off. We had some timely hitting. The playoff run we’ve had guys get some big hits. It has been a huge team effort. These guys have really picked each other up.”
Intangibles have been just as important as big plays for Charlotte Christian when it comes to reaching the state championship. For Simmons’s ballclub, it took the players buying into the process, which they did. This is a group of focused competitors, who come ready to work every day. That approach has carried into games, as they compete every play and don’t let up.
“They’ve worked hard all year,” Simmons said. “They don’t get too high or too low. They stick with the process we try to do. They’ve done a great job. They don’t complain. It has been a fun year.”
It shouldn’t be overly significant, because the best team should win. However, the best of three structure might favor Charlotte Christian since the Knights are used to playing three-game series against conference foes all through league play. Simmons intentionally tailored his team’s schedule to have four games most weeks to prepare his team for the playoffs, especially the state championship series. That hasn’t been a consistent pattern in Wesleyan’s schedule.
“I think a three-game series really is what baseball is all about,” Simmons said. “You find out who the best team is. You have the best two teams, so it should be a good weekend.”
“We’re not going to change anything. We’re going to stick to the process. We’re going to keep pumping the same well and see what happens. It’s not rocket science. We’re going to stick to the same process and keep pumping the same well.