Hilton Head Christian baseball expects improvement in 2015
By David Shelton
Hilton Head – After a 2-14 season a year ago, the Hilton Head Christian baseball team expects to be improved in 2015.
Coach Matt Smith feels the necessary pieces for a competitive team this spring are present, although the roster is loaded with underclassmen.
The coach offers this assessment of his 2015 squad.
“We have a lot of pitching depth. We won’t overpower anyone but we will throw a lot of strikes,” reports Smith. “We should be able to compete defensively and we also have good team chemistry. They play hard and have fun. Our weakness will probably be how young we are overall. More than half of our team are underclassmen.”
Smith will have five seniors on the roster this season and is hopeful they will provide the necessary leadership for the younger, less experienced players.
The team’s leader and top player is senior Luke Higgs, an all-region pick last season. Higgs is an all-around player and will work at third base and do a lot of mound time as well.
Ryan Barrett is a senior shortstop and pitcher who is one of the team’s better overall athletes, while senior Matt Van Grouw is a veteran performer with the ability to play either corner infield position.
Senior Hunter Greenwell will be a starting outfielder and is one of the team’s better offensive players while senior Kevin Smith will work at second base and has a solid attitude and work ethic.
The rest of the playing time will come from underclassmen, many of which are sophomores and freshmen.
One junior starter will be catcher Andy Ballard, a solid defensive player, according to Smith.
Sophomores James Bartholomew and Alex Brown are expected to see time on the mound as well this spring. Bartholomew will also work at third base while Brown will likely start in the outfield.
Another sophomore outfielder will be Zach Whitton, one of the team’s fastest players in the grass.
Freshman John Burke will compete for time in the outfield and is the team’s lone left-handed pitcher. Freshman John Blackshire possesses a live arm and will pitch while also playing second base. Another freshman, Michael Graupner, will work in the middle infield defensively.
Freshman J.D. Monts will log innings on the mound and is versatile enough to play all three outfield positions, according to Smith.
Smith expects Hilton Head Prep, led by senior infielder Brooks Robinson and junior pitcher Tyler Fox, to be the team to beat in conference play this season. He feels his own club can be a top four contender in the region standings, along with Thomas Heyward and St. Andrews.