Wando baseball opens 2015 as top-ranked team in AAAA
By David Shelton
Mt. Pleasant – Armed with 12 seniors, including seven college signees or commitments, Wando head baseball coach Dirk Thomas understands that his 2015 baseball team can and should be a contender for the AAAA state championship.
Wando enters the 2015 as the top-ranked team in AAAA by the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association. Thomas says his team should embrace the ranking and appreciate the respect.
“It should not change the way we prepare or play, not at all,” said Thomas. “We should be proud that people think highly of our program and our players should be motivated to continue to do the things that got us this far. We have a good baseball team. I don’t think anyone doubts that. But we have to prepare and perform to our level of expectations every time we step on the field. So far, our work ethic and our attitude has been that of a championship level team. We’re excited about the season.”
Wando finished 18-11 last season, advancing to the AAAA lower state final four before suffering losses to Sumter and West Ashley to end their season.
The Warriors return more experience than any other team in the state this spring and will rely heavily on a talented senior class.
Wando’s top three pitchers – Jeff Gottesman, Harrison Smith and Owen Ravenel – are seniors with significant varsity pitching experience. Gottesman has signed with Bucknell and Smith has signed with South Carolina.
“It’s a good, solid starting three and our pitching should certainly give us a chance to win every game if we throw strikes and play defense,” said Thomas. “We have pretty good depth behind those three so we feel our pitching is probably our biggest strength.”
Expected to log innings on the mound as well are Calvin Morse and Ethan Keane, both seniors.
The catching position also is well-stocked with the return of seniors Noah LoCascio and Jack DeLongchamps. The pair will split time behind the plate and at designated hitter. LoCascio, headed to James Madison, is one of the team’s top power threats at the plate. DeLongchamps has signed with Charleston Southern.
Anchoring the outfield is senior Kep Brown, considered one of the nation’s top 50 high school players. Brown, at 6-4, has outstanding speed and a great throwing arm. He also will hit in the middle of the batting order. He has signed to play at Miami and is likely a high round draft pick in June.
Smith will play in the outfield when he’s not on the mound. Vying for time as well are seniors Max Fries and Payton Muller, along with junior Peter Brown.
Senior Tyler Ackard (Limestone) returns at first base while senior Oliver Hill (Spartanburg Methodist) is an all-stater at second base. Working at shortstop is junior Hogan Kelly while Ravenel starts at third. Juniors Ben Dodds and Victor Major also will see time at third base.
Wando opens the season in the prestigious International Paper Classic in Georgetown on March 5th. The Warriors will play games against Rock Hill, Summerville and Lexington – all top 10 AAAA teams in the preseason.
“There will be a lot of eyes on us and the expectations will be for us to perform well,” said Thomas. “It’s a good way to open the season because it gives us a look against three quality programs. It’s a good foundation to the season and hopefully we can play well and build on it going forward.”