Neither Athens Drive nor Cary had seasons to remember, but both baseball programs have reason for optimism next year.
And in Athens’ 9-3 win over the Imps on Tuesday night, the building blocks for both programs were on display.
Junior pitcher Louis Card pitched six solid innings to get the victory for the Jaguars (5-15, 4-9 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference).
And for Cary, freshman Jason Hohe drove in two of the three runs.
Ryan Westbrook had higher expectations entering his third year as Jaguars’ coach, but the team has lost too many one- and two-run games. Plus, his pitching staff – usually a strength at Athens – didn’t perform the way he wanted.
“I was JV coach for seven years, and every year (the varsity) had a guy on the mound who was going to go play Division I ball,” Westbrook said. “We haven’t had that since I’ve been here. Obviously, if you have a pitcher who can keep you in it, that’s always a big thing.”
Card did that against Cary (4-15, 2-11), giving up six hits and one earned while striking out four and walking none.
“He did a great job, and he’s done a great job for the last half of the season,” Westbrook said. “He’s one of the guys coming back, and he’s one of the guys we’re going to lean heavily on next year.
“Louis has stepped up and done a fantastic job when he was called on. He’s thrown great and is really starting to understand how to pitch.”
Card, who said his fastball and curveball worked well against the Imps, looks forward to the challenge of being a senior leader for 2014-15.
“It’d be great,” Card said. “I look forward to next year. Hopefully we can make a push the playoffs. (We’ll need) strong pitching, good defense and we have to hit the ball. The more runs we score, the more games we can win. That’s kind of what we’ve been struggling (with) this year, so hopefully next year we can score more runs.”
Senior Nick Vendetti did his part Tuesday, getting on base four times with a single, double and two walks while driving in two runs and scoring twice. He also pitched a perfect seventh.
Cary returns eight starters next season, including three freshmen who are the core of the infield: leadoff hitter/shortstop Greg Jones, first baseman Hohe and second baseman Kyle Gensler.
Hohe went 2-for-3 with two runs batted in, while Gensler was 1-for-2 with a run scored and a sacrifice bunt.
“You can see that we’re building to where we want to be,” Cary coach Brian Yerger said. “We can hit a little more level ground next year. We return eight starters, so there’s a good bright spot ahead for us.
“They’re fully committed to this program. We’re finally starting to reap some of the benefits from that, and the kids finally see everything we’ve been talking about for a year. That’s been a big thing for us.”