Starting a program from scratch is tough. Try doing it in the always stacked Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Conference, says second-year baseball coach Mike Jarman.
“The competition is incredible,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen as a coach. In Oklahoma, we were in 6A and we competed for state championships there. In Florida, it was more of a football area where I was. But you come here and baseball is incredibly good, especially in the SWAC. Holly Springs, Middle Creek, Fuquay, Green Hope and Cary.”
The Patriots are 2-13 overall and 1-9 in the SWAC following its spring break tournament in the Hilltop Invitational. Seven of those losses have come by 10 or more runs.
“You’re seeing mature arms that can go Division I every night,” Jarman said. “And it’s hard on our guys. But they are seeing it, they are gaining experience and they are growing from it.”
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A year ago, in the first year of play for Friendship, things were about the same. The Pats finished 1-20 overall and 1-15 in the SWAC.
“Losing isn’t fun,” sophomore Cole Oxendine said. “Coming out here and having results like that is tough. But we just have to keep coming out here and giving it our all every day in practice, in games, everything.”
The team has no seniors. The roster of 24 players sports 11 juniors, 11 sophomores and two freshmen.
“We know that the group of sophomores this year, who were freshmen last year, the guys we started with are the core of the team,” sophomore Tyler Peters said. “We’ve all played our whole lives. We’ve got a few years to continue to get bigger and stronger and build around us, build the program to where we can hang with those teams.”
Sophomore Bryson Smith is batting a crisp .500 (15 for 30), reaching on a hit by pitch and seven walks for an on-base percentage of .600.
Oxendine is batting .267 with three RBIs, which all came in the team’s lone victory – a 9-8 upset of then No. 1-ranked Green Hope back on March 3.
“We just played better that day,” he said. “We hit, we fielded, we pitched. We did everything right.”
Peters got the victory on the mound in relief in that game. He’s batting .343 with 12 hits.
“It kind of showed us what we can do. It was big to let us know what we are capable of and what we might do in the future,” Peters said. “I think we have a good group of guys, who make it fun to be here. Obviously, it’s hard losing. It’s hard to keep hope when the scoreboard looks like that most nights, but we have some guys we can build around for sure and we can look at the future and see what we can build here.”