by Andrew Stark
Entering the 2012 season, which was Carmel Christian’s first year as a varsity baseball team, coach Alex Grey was hopeful that he could lead the Cougars to two wins on the field.
He was going to be playing two seventh-graders, on a team that also had four eighth-graders, and was going to fill his lineup with home-schooled students and players from other area high schools.
The Cougars exceeded expectations and wound up finishing their inaugural season with a 9-4 record. Two players – freshman Chance Grey and junior Caleb Smith – wound up among the state’s top batters and helped the Cougars to a surprisingly successful first season.
“I don’t know if anyone saw this coming,” Alex Grey said. “These guys both had just amazing years at the plate. It is definitely odd, and it may not ever happen again, so we are going to enjoy it while we can.”
Alex Grey describes Chance Grey, who is his son, as a slasher who has a unique ability at peppering line drives away from defenders. The coach said Smith is more of a power threat.
The players, despite their different strengths, both put up some remarkable numbers for the Cougars. Grey had an eye-popping .710 batting average and had four doubles and 15 RBIs. Smith hit .636 with eight doubles, a triple and 24 RBIs.
“It was exciting to know that we were going to be the first to start the program and leave our legacy here as being on the first-ever team,” said Smith, a Providence High student who was cut from that school’s varsity baseball team and had not played competitively in two years.
“I started out a little slow, but once I got going, I was able to keep it going and keep hot throughout the year.”
Chance Grey said the third game of the season, a 12-7 Cougars win over Northside Christian on March 6, was the one that woke up the team’s bats for good and got the squad playing well together.
“It is going to be neat for me to say I was on this team when we first got it going, and I will get to be one of the original members to see it through,” Grey said. “It was a fun year, and I am glad we were a part of it.”
Another strong player for the Cougars this season was senior Kyle Nyenhuis, who hit .375 and was 4-1 on the mound. Nyenhuis, who said he will play junior-college ball at the University of South Carolina Lancaster, is an Ardrey Kell student who was cut from that high school’s team after playing on the JV squad as a sophomore.
“For us to be able to fill out our roster with (Kyle and Caleb) was instrumental in our success and definitely helped us and gave them a chance to play somewhere, too,” Alex Grey said.
Smith said he was pleased with how the season went and was excited to be part of a fun and rewarding team.
“Our offense as a team was the highlight of the season,” Smith said. “And there wasn’t too much pressure on us so we just went out and had fun. At the beginning of the year we were underdogs, but as we started playing better other teams started becoming the underdogs and we were the ones expecting to win.”