Senior-heavy baseball, young but strong softball and balanced tennis can be expected at East Wake this spring.
The school’s girls soccer and softball programs are functioning without junior varsity teams this season, creating diverse rosters but also an environment for learning that can pay dividends for years to come.
Baseball: Coach Derek Matthews says the key this season will be pitching and making plays on defense. The offensive end is less of an issue, he said.
“One thing that’s different is I’m not going to have a weaker 7-8-9 hitting order,” Matthews said. “I think we’re going to put nine out there where the bottom will really be as effective as the top.”
The team aims to make the playoffs after no postseason last year, which ended with a 10-12, 7-7 mark.
Standout players include senior outfielder and pitcher Jason Dean and sophomore pitcher Will Davis. But Matthews said it’s really hard to call out just a few players on a balanced team with eight seniors.
The other seniors are Coley Mizell (third base, shortstop), Kyle Boyette (second base), Eric Hasbrouck (first base), Jake Watkins (catcher), Aaron Platts (pitcher), Landon Cantin (third base, designated hitter) and Lee Chamblee (outfielder).
Matthews says Harnett Central may be the team to chase, but the conference is really up for grabs.
“Were hoping to get back to the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve got the pitchers to cover it – about six or seven arms that are all about the same.”
Boys Golf: Getting practice in throughout the recent weather has been as challenging for the golf team as it has any other sport – perhaps even more challenging considering golf teams are at the mercy of the courses they call home.
East Wake is also looking to form a more complete team. As of early last week, its roster was composed of senior Austin Herber and freshman Evan King.
Coach Ben McKaig said two other prospects were working to get their paperwork squared away.
“I’m afraid a lot of our golfers at East Wake also play baseball,” McKaig said. “The baseball players most always play the same day (Tuesday), so that makes it kind of tough.”
Girls Soccer: First-year coach Bree Orth replaces Crystal Espey at the helm of a team that finished 5-10-1, 5-8-1 last season.
The team is diverse in age, with no junior varsity team in the program this season.
The squad has four seniors in forward Sergia Bronfield, midfielder Nicole Kendzierski, forward Rosario Juarez and defender Kelly Daughtridge.
Four juniors, eight sophomores, and four freshmen round out the roster.
Junior Ashton Cannon, a midfielder, has been one of the Warriors more reliable players.
Softball: The Warriors want and expect more than they finished with last season, which ended with a first-round playoff loss at Fuquay-Varina and with a 10-8-1, 9-5 record.
The team has plenty of strength in juniors who have played varsity softball since they were freshmen. Those include returning big hitters Haley Glover and Annabeth Watkins. Watkins also shares pitching duties with sophomore Madison Swiger.
It was sophomores that led the way last Thursday, however, as the Warriors opened the season with a 6-4 win at Cary.
Bailey Watkins (right field) was most productive at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a single, a double, a walk and two RBIs. Fellow sophomore up from junior varsity Tasia Bartley (center fielder) finished 2-for-3 with two singles, also drawing a walk.
“I think they have a lot of potential,” coach Melissa Bell said of Bailey Watkins and Bartley. “They swing big swings and play as big on defense.”
Sophomore shortstop Breanna Boggs and sophomore catcher Megan Fullwood are also on the impact list.
“Realistically, in my opinion, we should go as far, really further than we did last year,” Bell said. “I have a lot of team-building work to do with these girls. I think when I can bring them together emotionally and skill-wise, they are going to be hard to stop.”
Boys Tennis: East Wake reached the dual team championships as a wildcard but saw its 2014 season end with a 12-4 mark after a loss to Green Hope in the opening round.
Much of what got the team there returns to this year’s roster.
Senior No. 1 seed Will Clement is a three-year letterman and returning runner-up in GNRC singles. He is team captain this year, and is looking forward to playing doubles with sophomore brother Jake Clement, who will play at No. 2 singles.
“We expect to be strong at the top this year with the two Clements and our No. 3-seeded junior Brooks Stancil,” said coach Jackson Glasgow.
Stancil was a regional qualifier in doubles with Jake Clement last season.
The team has depth in junior Josh Hatley, sophomore Will D’Allaird, senior Omar Ahmed and sophomore Khadeem Dublin.
“We can use any mix of these four guys to fill the last three singles spots throughout the season,” Glasgow said.
Track and Field: On the boys’ team, senior Charleston High (third place in states in indoor triple jump) is looking strong and healthy and plans to add long jump to his resume this spring.
Junior brothers Montre Holmes and Deandre Holmes will play a role in sprints and relays. Impact distance runners are junior Ryan Ackley and freshman Eduardo Castallanos.
Others to watch are junior Davion Sutton (300 hurdles, relays) and senior Damontay Rhem (shot put, discus).
For the girls, coach Jeff Andrews-Barrett named three athletes to keep an eye on: junior Amarachi Achona (long jump, sprints, relays); sophomore Mikieja Covington (sprints, relays) and freshman Chinwendu Achona (middle distance).
“The goal this season is to try to get more kids to regionals and states and post more personal bests,” Andrews-Barrett said.