Mike Joyner is still putting his stamp on the Wake Forest High School program in his second year as head baseball coach.
Joyner, who is also Wake Forest’s athletic director, had established a winning tradition during his 16 seasons as baseball coach at Smithfield-Selma.
The Cougars went a respectable 11-15 last season after Wake Forest had failed to reach the 10-win mark in any of its previous three. This year’s team is 11-7 – and 3-6 in the always tough Cap-8 Conference – thanks in part to a 7-2 start to the season.
“High school baseball is about the start you get off to,” Joyner said. “Unless you can just dominate your league, with the way the playoffs are set up you want to get as many wins behind you as you can. We need to get good pitching. We have a hard time turning a game around with extra-base hits – we’re just not quite there yet.”
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But the coach said even though the Cougars may be a work in progress things are looking positive.
“Last year we had 11 seniors and just tried to survive and stay in it,” Joyner continued. “This year’s team knows how to play, and we have some talent. We just have to get off to good starts. The components are there, but we just have to get it together on the bump. We really have only two seniors (first baseman Grant Smith and outfielder John Garvey) that are in the lineup every day, and we might have three sophomores out there. Good seasons are about winning streaks and bad seasons are about losing streaks. We need to put together some more winning streaks.”
Sophomore infielder Davis Powell said it comes down to fundamentals.
“We need to be fundamentally sound, but we can’t get down early in games,” said Powell, who in the game with rival Heritage had the key three-run double and finished the game by retiring the only batter he faced as an emergency pitcher. “We need to be more consistent. Coach tells us to take every inning like it’s the seventh inning. That’s what we have to do to win in our conference. But our team is tough as nails, and we don’t quit.”
Junior infielder Jeff Leary said the Cougars just have to be about work ethic.
“Coach Joyner just tells us to work hard every day,” Leary said. “He said to expect a close game every time we play in the conference, so we have to be ready every time. We’ve got to start games better and jump on our opponents first. We can’t expect to get behind early and always come back.”