Salisbury stakes his claim as Matthews-Mint Hill’s best
by Andrew Stark
This year, the Independence baseball team had its first winning season since 2006 and finished among the top four of the talent-rich Southwestern 4A conference standings for the first time since going 20-8 and challenging for the league championship seven seasons ago.
A big reason for Independence’s turn of fortune was Nick Salisbury, a 5-foot-6, 145-pounder who ignited the Patriots’ offense and was a steadying force on defense.
This past season, the rising senior shortstop topped the Patriots with 23 runs scored, 21 singles, 10 doubles, four triples, a .407 batting average and a .616 slugging percentage. Salisbury also drew 11 walks, drove in 11 runs, stole 10 bases and struck out just eight times in 86 at-bats.
For his solid all-around play and impact on the Patriots’ turnaround season, Salisbury is the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2012 Matthews-Mint Hill Baseball Player of the Year.
“I think I had a pretty successful season,” Salisbury said. “We had a good year as a team and showed that we can play with some of the schools in our conference. I don’t think people will overlook us anymore.”
People will not look past the Patriots this coming season, and if teams downplayed the impact of their star shortstop, that, too, will stop.
“I just love playing and love competing,” Salisbury said. “But I can always improve and make sure I am doing all that I can to be a leader on offense and defense. (Next year) I want to be a better hitter overall, hit for a higher average and commit less errors in the field.”
Although he committed just four errors in 65 chances, his drive to improve is what has college scouts taking notice. Salisbury recently received a scholarship offer from Liberty University, and Winthrop, Charleston Southern and Navy also are showing interest, so more offers are sure to follow.
This summer, Salisbury is traveling the Southeast with the South Charlotte Panthers, an elite showcase travel team, and is producing as he usually does on the field. He leads the Panthers in hits, triples and run scored, all while batting .328 and playing well defensively.
When next season rolls around, the Patriots will be one of the teams in the hunt for conference supremacy, and Salisbury will be leading the way.
“(Last year) showed that Independence has been building and getting better and that you can’t take us lightly anymore,” Salisbury said. “We wish we could have made it further in the playoffs, but it was a good year.”
With several key pieces returning, including Salisbury, the Patriots are in position to do even better next season.
“I am going to take it upon myself to make sure I keep working hard and make sure that I am being the best player and leader that I can be,” Salisbury said.