Perquimans has become a factor each season in baseball, and the reigning Four Rivers Conference champions look to build on such success.
And success this year has already started with a 2-0 record, scoring a combined 23 runs in victories against Pasquotank and Northeastern.
“We have great leadership from the upperclassmen, and we have guys who are hungry to compete, which is all you can ask as a coach,” said Pirates coach Justin Roberson, who will still see tough league competition from schools such as area FRC rival Camden.
With experience dotting most of the area squads, about the only one missing out is the one that regularly contends for the Northeastern Coastal Conference’s top spot.
That doesn’t mean anyone is overlooking two-time NCC champ Currituck, which won 20 games last spring and reached the third round of the 3A state playoffs, or that expectations are lower with just four starters back in Barco.
“If we get the pitching I think we are capable of and can consistently put the ball in play, we have the potential to do well,” Currituck coach Justin Hill said.
Nonetheless, Edenton, Northeastern and Pasquotank will try to change up what’s become a two-team race in the NCC with the Knights and First Flight.
Coach: Justin Roberson, 2nd season
Last year’s record: 19-6, 11-3 Four Rivers
Outlook: Lefty pitcher Austin Freese, last year’s Daily Advance Player of the Year, might be gone, but there are others ready to grab innings on the mound for the Pirates.
Ryan Onley, Mark Saunders and Eric Copeland were also part of a Perquimans bullpen that led a late season surge in the FRC en route to a conference title. Saunders is also expected to get time on the corner bases, along with Onley at third and Copeland in the outfield.
The trio, along with four other returning players, give Roberson a lot to work with.
They will be combined with a senior trio in shortshop Cole Bray, outfielder Vaughney Waterfield and Ryan Singletary, a utility guy who can play at second, catch and play offense in the designated hitter’s slot.
“As a team we are going to need consistency throughout the season,” Roberson said. “Last year we got off to a good start and then dropped three in a row, including one conference game.”
Coach: Justin Hill, 5th season
Last year’s record: 20-5, 10-2 Northeastern Coastal
Outlook: Despite just four starters back, two of them — Evan Voliva and Tyler Schuster — were all-conference performers last season.
Voliva, an All-Area player in 2012, and Kyle Spruill are expected to stay at the top of the pitching rotation, Hill said.
“Both have varsity experience, and we are expecting big things from them,” Hill said. “Our outfield should also be solid with returning starters likely to fill those spots.”
The Knights lost three All-Area players to graduation last year, with two of them in top hitter Juwan Harvey and Tyler Kouskouris now playing at College of The Albemarle.
The Currituck outfield will still include plenty of dependability with three-sport athlete Dakwon Foreman and senior Wayne Twiford, along with help from Brice Cartwright, Louie Ladelia, Justin Gross and Fred Huff.
Hill’s measure for concern comes with an infield that will likely have first year players at every spot except for catcher, which will be played by either Voliva or Spruill.
Colten Leonard at short and sophomore Ben Rogers at third will shore up the infield, along with Harrison Ferebee, Jonathan Bogac and Wes Parker at second. Andrew Cone and Dustin Massie are probable first basemen.
Coach: Tray Scott, 1st season
Last year’s record: 7-12, 5-7 NCC
Outlook: Scott, a former Eagles player, takes the head job from Duncan Moore, now the school’s athletic director.
On a team with six seniors, one of Northeastern’s best players returns as just a sophomore in Ge’Dari Liverman, who is also a key player on the football and boys basketball teams.
Liverman, who plays second and pitches, won the team’s MVP award last spring as a freshman.
Four more pitchers — Garner Robertson, Austin White, Troy Parks and Austin Williams — will also help the Eagles on the mound.
Scott looks forward to strong senior leadership and a good learning mentality to drive NHS to a winning record and more in the NCC.
The outfield will have three of those seniors in Dalton Jones, A.J. Felton and Patrick Saunders, along with help from Jon Copeland and Williams.
Coach: Bill Jordan, 2nd season
Last year’s record: 16-8, 8-4 NCC
Outlook: Pitching and defense are set to be strong suits for the Aces, who have potential to break through Currituck and First Flight’s recent strangehold on the NCC championship.
Allen Tynch returns as a three-year starter who can pitch and play shortstop, while Edenton can also count on returning All-Area player Brock Meher to pitch and get time in the outfield.
“This team has a good mix of seniors and underclassmen that have varsity experience,” Aces coach Bill Jordan said. “Pitching has the potential to be one of our strong points, and the defense should be solid.”
Fellow infielders Cody Copeland, who can play at second, third and short, Bryant Warren and Chris Seese will find added hitting from junior Josh Bass, who led the JV squad last spring at the plate.
Jack Downum is another utility player with abilities on the mound, in the outfield and playing first base.
Rob Bunch returns in the outfield.
“This team should be successful if we can get some timely hitting,” Jordan said. “As a team, we are bigger and stronger physically than in 2012.”
Coach: Delton Stallings, 2nd season
Last year’s record: 5-18, 1-11 NCC
Outlook: One way the Panthers could move their way out of the bottom of the conference is with pitching, bringing back their entire rotation anchored by All-Area thrower Bryce Keziah, the likely No. 1 starter.
Cori Barton, Spencer Ambrose, Cody Weeks and freshman Conner Brickhouse — who also catches, plays second and short — should get to pitch.
With Barton and Devin Trulin the only seniors at Pasquotank, coach Delton Stallings knows that’s the one tough point to overcome.
“We are still young and many players are still developing,” Stallings said. “We must throw strikes on the mound and play formidable defense and be able to manufacture runs for us to have a successful season.”
David Henne, who was the starting quarterback for Panthers football last fall, is one of four sophomores on varsity and will split time with Brickhouse at catcher. Another sophomore, Jalen Smith, can play center field and second while fellow sophomore Garrett Hudyma will play at first or right field.
Coach: Doug Leary, 1st season
Last year’s record: 13-10, 9-5 Four Rivers
Outlook: New coach Doug Leary takes the helm from Mickey Drew, who is now the athletic director at Perquimans.
Leary isn’t ready to lock down many starting positions yet, and there’s a good reason why: five players on the team last season, which finished third in the FRC, are still in postseason action for the Camden boys basketball team.
Those players are outfielders Brett Forbes and Jake McDaniels, Jordan Hassell, first baseman Josh Griffin and third baseman Mark Nelson.
Players Leary has had for the opening weeks of practice include catcher Tucker Ross and pitcher/shortstop combos Evan Phillips (an All-Area selection) and Christian Latham.
Leary believes a strong senior class will lead the Bruins, along with young talent to push them, such as freshman second baseman Mark Phillips and sophomore third baseman Josh Russell.