There has been quite the turnaround for St. David’s baseball team. The Warriors swept a doubleheader against Grace Christian to clinch the EPIC 2A title Tuesday a year after finishing the season 0-19.
The difference isn’t a host of new players, but more of a mental change, St. David’s coach Chris Keown said.
“We haven’t had a huge roster overhaul since last year. We only had one senior last year, and we have one again this year,” he said. “The difference this year is they just bought into what we’re talking about and teaching and, really, preaching to them. We preach a lot of making the routine plays, and that’s what we’ve been doing this season, putting the ball in play more and just competing a little harder.”
The Warriors (8-7, 7-0 EPIC) will begin the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament Tuesday.
St. David’s used a four-run fifth inning to pull away from Grace Christian (5-8, 2-4) and walk away with an 8-3 win in the first game of the five-inning doubleheader matchup at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary.
Senior Darby Larson pitched the complete game for the Warriors, striking out five Eagles batters, but in the second game Keown looked to St. David’s two eighth graders – Adam Bloebaum and David Clark – to take the mound.
Clark started the game, striking out six in three innings while giving up three runs as the St. David’s offense used a six-run second inning to take an early lead.
Bloebaum, who closed the game for the Warriors, helped the early offensive burst with a three-RBI triple, en route to a 9-4 win in the second game.
Winning both games allowed the Warriors to wrap up the league title instead of forcing a tie for the EPIC crown.
“We didn’t win a game last year and to be conference champs this year is a huge improvement, but like I told them, we’re not done,” Keown said. “We’ve got a lot to play for. ... We haven’t crossed the finish line yet. There’s a lot of baseball left.”
For Grace coach Charlie Murphy, seeing the success St. David’s has had this year is promising for the future of his own young squad.
The Eagles roster includes six freshmen and just two seniors, many who are not full-time baseball players.
“We’re young. We’re mostly freshmen, and our guys just need to play baseball,” Murphy said. “They just haven’t played much baseball, and I think if they could play in the offseason we’d come back and be a lot better.
“There’s two or three players that really live and breathe baseball, but our school is small, so the guys tend to play other sports. When fall comes they’re playing football and when basketball comes they’re playing basketball, and when baseball comes, for the two months we have them, they play baseball and that’s tough. But I like our guys, I like our future and I like where we’re going.”