by Andrew Stark
Grace Academy Basketball Closes Out Season With Win
The Grace Academy boys basketball team participated in the National Association of Christian Athletes Tournament Feb. 29 to March 2 and closed its season on a high note.
The Lions fell in the opener, 65-59, to eventual division winner Oakbrook Prep, out of Spartanburg, S.C. During that game, the Lions were down 16 points in the fourth quarter but rallied to tie the score with a little more than a minute to go. However, they could not regain the lead.
The loss forced the Lions into the consolation bracket, where they beat Orlando, Fla.’s West Oaks High, 64-32, on March 1 and advanced to the consolation finals the following day.
In the consolation finals, the Lions took out Greenville (S.C.) Home School, 72-39, in a game twice interrupted by tornado warnings. The Lions led by four points with five minutes to go in the first half but, after a tornado-warning delay, used a 19-3 run to put the game away.
Grace (13-10) won the consolation bracket and was awarded the NACA Team Sportsmanship Award.
Lions freshman Adam Koziol averaged 17 points during the three-game tournament, and senior Linas Janenas averaged more than 15 points and was named to the all-tournament team. Sophomores Justas Narusas and Kaderus Bailey both averaged double figures for the tournament.
Covenant Day baseball starts strong
The Covenant Day baseball team has started the season with a 5-1 record, and coach David Houseton is pleased.
After losing on March 6, the Lions were able to bounce back with a convincing 12-0 victory over Huntersville SouthLake Christian on March 10 and a 22-7 win versus Northside Christian on March 12.
James Dillon, who is 4-0 on the mound, tossed a three-hitter in the win against SouthLake, and the Lions collected 14 hits and scored runs in five of the six innings. Taylor Fisher, Garrett Vaught and Peter Englert each had three hits.
“I will say it’s still early in the year, (but) we have got off to great start,” Houseton said.
Aside from defeating SouthLake, the Lions have twice beaten Charlotte Latin and posted wins over Rabun Gap (Ga.) and Asheville School.
Houseton is pleased with the pitching of Dillon, Travis Hutchinson, Max Mason and Englert.
The offense has been balanced, and Houseton singled out Englert, Chase Dragan, Vaught, Taylor Fisher, Michael Henry and Taylor Stewart for playing key roles early on.
“The main issue for us is to stay healthy and (keep) getting better,” Houseton said.
Covenant Day is on the road at Hickory Grove on Friday, March 16.
Queen’s Grant putting up big numbers
All signs pointed to Queen’s Grant having a breakout season in just its third year as a baseball program, and the Stallions have not disappointed.
After setting the school record last year with nine wins, the Stallions have raced out to a 6-1 record this season and are not just squeaking out victories.
On March 12, the Stallions defeated Salisbury North Hills Christian, 15-2, and on March 13, they blanked Community School of Davidson, 12-0, behind a no-hitter from David McGoldrick, who improved to 2-0 on the year.
On the season, Queen’s Grant is batting a staggering .373 as a team and has scored 84 runs through six games. J.P. Ketchum is batting .632 with a home run and 14 RBIs, and Steven Booksh is hitting .624 with 13 RBIs. David McGoldrick (.571, 11 RBIs), Austin Kegarise (.429) and Joe McGoldrick (.400) have all played key roles for the Stallions’ potent offensive attack.
David McGoldrick and Anthony Campolo have each recorded two wins on the mound for the Stallions, who next play at Community School of Davidson on Wednesday, March 21.
Independence students ‘Kick Butt’
On March 8, Independence High held its third annual “Kick Butt” dodgeball tournament. The D.R.E.A.M team sponsored the tournament to raise awareness about the harmful uses of tobacco products.
Twenty-four teams competed in a single-elimination bracket and received a prize for each win. Teams that made it beyond the first round received a heat-sensing pencil. Teams also received keychain flashlights and TRU water bottles for passing the second and third rounds.
Pacman Power – which included Evan Guest, Drew Morgan, Meaghan Fowler, Ashley Varnadoe, Morgan Brighman and Mason Courter – won the team championship.
Bulldogs baseball searching for consistency
Under first-year coach Rick Sambrotto, the Butler baseball team got out of the gates quickly, opening the season with back-to-back victories over Mallard Creek and North Mecklenburg. The Bulldogs then lost three consecutive games by a combined total of just four runs.
“We got behind a couple times and did a good job coming back, but we made a few mistakes in the close losses and (other teams) hurt us,” Sambrotto said. “Offensively, we’ve been pretty good but haven’t taken advantage of runners in scoring position as much as we need to.”
Butler has been scoring enough runs, thanks to strong play from Andrew Moser, Chase Gehringer and last year’s Southwestern 4A conference Co-Player of the Year, A.J. Larsen, who hits .375 and has a team-high five RBIs. But the Bulldogs need to put pitching, defense and hitting together over an entire game.
Dalton Eisenbath has been the top hurler, posting a 2.93 ERA in 14 innings, and Sambrotto is pleased with the pitching staff as a whole.
“Pitching has been good but can get better pitch to pitch, batter to batter,” Sambrotto said. “For the most part, I like how we’re practicing, (but we) need to carry over our execution (from) practice into games. We need to keep working hard defensively and limit any extra outs.”
Against Rocky River on March 13, Butler evened its record to 3-3 with a 5-2 victory, which was preserved when closer Tyler Wilson struck out the final batter with the bases loaded.
“It was nice to get that win,” Sambrotto said. “Every game and every win is big in our conference. We are still young in spots. We are solid up the middle but are young at (shortstop) and second (base). We are talented but I think we are still young and learning how to play varsity baseball in between the ears.”
Butler softball rolling
The Butler softball team has jumped into a first-place tie in the Southwestern 4A conference and, with a 5-1 overall record, is poised for a strong season. Butler defeated Rocky River, 12-1, on March 13 and now has a 2-0 mark in conference play.
On the mound, Shannan Mas has allowed just 14 hits and four earned runs in 31 innings. Mas carries a 0.90 ERA and has recorded 39 strikeouts but has walked 22 batters.
Caroline Barnette has started the year hot and leads the team with six RBIs and boasts a .357 average. She has gotten help from Kayla Brookshire (hitting .438), Allison Barnette (.353 with four RBIs) and Brianna Capristo (five RBIs).
Butler coach Barry Eberhardt said he is happy to be tied for first place but that his team has room for improvement.
“I am glad we (are winning),” Eberhardt said. “But we can’t continue to make the same mistakes that we have been making this year. If we are going to survive the season, we are going to have to walk fewer batters, and we have to cut down on the mistakes we are making in the field. We have to make all of the plays that need to be made to be successful this year.”
The Bulldogs beat Vance 17-0 on March 14 and host Mooresville on Wednesday, March 21.
Presley leads young Stallions softball team
Catelyn Presley is the lone returning starter for the Queen’s Grant softball team, and she’s played a major role in the Stallions’ 1-1 record to start the season.
On March 10, Presley nearly single-handedly led her team to a win, tossing a one-hit shutout on the mound and driving in five runs at the plate. Senior Federica Staton and sophomores Uniqua Dale and Kaitlynn Sehen each drove in two runs in the win.
Staton and Presley are the only seniors on the roster for the Stallions, who next play at Covenant Day on Monday, March 19.
Ravens softball seeks program’s first win
After going winless last year, the Rocky River softball team had an 0-4 record heading into a March 15 game against South Mecklenburg. But Rocky River coach Mark Harmon feels as though his team is progressing toward the elusive first win in program history.
“We have grown up a little since last season,” Harmon said. “Last year, we had to start with the very basic fundamentals with girls coming in from different schools, but this year we are working on more complex areas of the game.”
“We want to get better every day and practice how we want to play. If we miss a fly ball in practice that we should catch, it is starting to mean something, and the girls are carrying that into the game.”
Despite falling to Butler, 12-1, on March 13, the Ravens impressed Bulldogs coach Barry Eberhardt.
“Rocky River plays a good game,” Eberhardt said. “They are out there with enthusiasm, cheering for each other every play, and you can see they are working hard.”