Baseball team struggles early on


Tommy Reed is at bat against West Johnston.

Taylor Bucklin, Staff Reporter

Last year, our varsity baseball team was announced conference champions.

This year, with seven returning starters and seven new players, Coach Joyner is anticipating the strength of the team.

“I think we’re definitely strong on the mound because we have both our top pitchers back. Our middle infielders are strong and we have four or five really good returning hitters,” Joyner said.

Despite last year’s success, Joyner felt the team was lacking in certain areas. This year, he is focused on improvement.

“We had a pretty good team last year. I just think we need to be a better offensive team this year as far as getting key hits in critical situations and that kind of thing,” Joyner said. “We definitely need to be a better offensive team.”

With the team’s new players and last years win, Joyner has high hopes and goals for the season.

Joyner said, “We want to see our new players out there performing, and then we want to try and get our lineup in the best shape it can be in before conference.”

The team jumped out to a good start with a convincing 14 to 1 win over Enloe that seemed to hint at good things to come.

But in game two March 5 against a talented West Johnston team, starting pitcher Cuyler O’Neill suffered an arm injury and had to leave the game. The Cougars fell 11 to 4.

O’Neill’s injury means the Cougars number one pitcher became unavailable and foreshadowed trails to come. The team dropped two more games with close losses to Garner (6 to 4) and Athens Drive (13 to 11).

The loss to Athens came after the Cougars rallied in the bottom of the seventh to erase a four-run deficit. A late-inning steal to home by sophomore Kahlil Watson sent the game to overtime.

Threatening in the bottom of the eighth, both O’Neill and Watson were unable to drive in runs to surpass the Jaguars.

Joyner said his goals moving forward are, “Pitch from ahead in the count to minimize the number of pitches, never quit and keep getting better each day, even in the face of adversity.”