East Wake second-year baseball coach Tony Piercy needed more than talent when he left behind the perennial playoff participant he built at Heritage to take a job that was a short in commute but long on rebuilding.
He needed young players such as outfielder Peyton Creech, now a senior committed to NCAA Division II power Francis Marion in Florence, S.C., to buy into his vision for the program.
“We’re trying to establish a work ethic and winning culture,” Pierce said. “This year’s senior class has a chance to do that. We’ve had three one-run losses this years, so we’ve been right there for most games. Garner handed it to us (on March 21), so to beat them (on March 24) is big. This is what we’ve been talking about. We figured out a way to stay in the game and then win it.”
Creech is one of nine seniors on the team who was happy to leave behind a 3-17 record in 2015 with a 13-12 mark last year. Now they’re hoping to contend for the playoffs. The Warriors are 8-9 overall and 5-3 in the conference and will end the year with series against Southeast Raleigh, Knightdale and Harnett Central.
“It’s important to us to change the program’s reputation,” Creech said. “We want to go out better than we came in. There wasn’t a good culture here. We’re playing for each other now.”
A play that illustrated the teamwork was Creech’s game-winning bunt to beat Garner in the bottom of the ninth. With a runner on third base, Piercy initially signaled for Creech to swing away. But with the third baseman playing back, after a couple of pitches Piercy signaled the speedy left-handed hitter to put down a bunt that scored the game-winner.
“A lot of kids would have wanted to be the hero swinging away,” Piercy said. “Peyton is a humble kid that wants to do what’s best for the team. He took what the defense gave him. He’s not a talkative kid, but he’s a team leader.”
The Warriors aren’t a power team, so Creech said they work hard on small-ball skills.
“We practice bunting a lot,” he said. “We take advantage of every opportunity we can.”
East Wake’s improvement has Creech focused on finishing his senior year before he looks ahead to college.
“I want my high school season to go out with a bang,” he said. “Francis Marion was great recruiting me. They liked my abilities, and I told them I’ll play fast and strong for them. That’s how we’re playing at East Wake.”