BASEBALL: Oakwood nine counting on chemistry
It seems hard to believe, but the Oakwood Christian Academy high school baseball program is about to begin its sixth year on the diamond, and it could turn out to be a special year for the Eagles.
Head coach Kraig Givens, who has been at the helm since the program’s inception, is overseeing the construction of the school’s on-campus baseball field, which should be complete soon, and he also has arguably the most experienced collection of talent he’s had in his six years as coach at OCA.
“We just have a really good group of boys right now and I think a lot of that comes from their success in basketball this year and the success that they’ve had the past couple of years in baseball,” he said. “It’s kind of fed them and gave them a desire to improve. Overall, it’s a fun group of guys to be around. They trust us as coaches and they trust each other.”
Oakwood will have just two seniors, but it’s two seniors that have logged a lot of innings wearing the Navy-and-Gold.
Matthew McDonough first starting playing baseball for the high school team as a sixth grader. Now a senior, McDonough has developed strength and speed for his 6-foot-6 frame. He will mainly play first base, but will also see some time in the outfield, as well as on the mound.
“He came in (six years ago) with very little experience, but he’s turned himself into one of the best, if not the best player we have at the moment,” Givens explained.
The other senior, Austin Greco, will be the Eagles’ starting centerfield and has plenty of speed on the base paths and in the outfield.
“He’s becoming a good hitter,” Givens said. “He’s grown a lot in the past year and he’s definitely gotten more confidence. We’ll be relying on him quite a bit.”
In the junior class, by far the team’s largest group, D.J. Terry will pitch and play outfield, while versatile infielder J.J. Lanham is one of the team’s best and most consistent hitters. John Jacob McSpadden will likely be team’s No. 1 starter on the hill, but can also catch and play middle infield.
Nate Stern, a home school student, is moving from outfield to shortstop this season, while Givens calls outfielder Trevor Hobbs one of the hardest-working kids in the team. Second-year player Noah Thornton has raw potential and is showing improvement, while first-year player Clay Jones is a fast learner, who Givens says has excellent hand-to-eye coordination.
Among the sophomores, Jacob Wellwood, another home schooler, will play in the outfield and some at second base. Phillip Davis will hold down the hot corner at third, while Cory Taylor will be the team’s primary catcher.
The freshman class will consist of outfielder Chase Lanham, first baseman Preston Allen and middle infielder/outfielder Sonny Rayburn, another home-schooled student.
Givens will be assisted on the bench by Allen Taylor and Scott McSpadden.
“Right now, our strength is our teamwork and togetherness,” Givens explained. “They really care about each other and they pick each other up. It’s just a really good ‘team’.”
Givens said the key to the season would be developing good pitching.
“I’m very confidence in our defense, in our offense and in our understanding of the game,” the coach added. “We just have to replace the guys that we lost last year, who were all pitchers. We have a lot of potential, we just have to do it.”