Fluco baseball squad looks to defend State title

By Duncan Nixon

In 2019 the Fluco baseball team captured the Class 3C State Championship with two impressive wins at Salem. Coach Joel Gray has lost a couple of key players to graduation, but he has an impressive core returning for the 2020 season. Even with top talent, and Coach Gray has some very good returnees, a second consecutive State title would have to be considered a long shot. In baseball there are just too many ways to lose a game to a team that you would normally beat, and you need to win a lot of games in a row to win it all. Nonetheless, the Flucos will naturally be going for it.

Coach Gray, who was named Coach of the Year in Class 3 last year, has the Ward brothers returning for their senior years. They are both outstanding pitchers and outstanding hitters. Andrew Ward was named to the All-State first team last season as a pitcher. His regular season statistics were awesome. As a pitcher he was 5-0 with an ERA of 1.17. His batting average was .327. Kevin Ward was second team All-State at first base. His regular season stats were also incredible. As a pitcher he was 6-1 with an ERA of an almost unbelievable 0.29. His batting average was .438.

Coach Gray has a number of other solid returnees. He noted that his entire pitching staff and all his outfielders from 2019 are returning. Cameron Shields returns at shortstop. He was a stand-out in the field last year as a junior and contributed some power hitting at the plate. Teams do not win state championships without really good shortstops. Mason Gross who hit .339 in 2019 will be back for his junior year in one of the outfield spots. Toby Sherman will be back for his senior year as a pitcher and outfielder. He contributed a home run in the State championship game last year. Other returning outfielders are, A.J, Brown and Justin Warner, who are seniors and junior Mason Gross. Wyatt Dansey, who was the Fluco’s starting pitcher in the championship game is also back.

Coach Gray has some big holes to fill. His catcher last season was Jacob Critzer, who was Class 3 player of the year and first team All-State in Class 3. Gray said that senior Trey Lyons will be called upon to fill in at Critzer’s spot. Third baseman Ryan Groome has also graduated. He was second team All-State in 2019. Two juniors are under consideration for this starting spot, John Rittenhouse and Pierson Barnabei. Coach Gray described Rittenhouse, who a standout forward on the Fluco basketball team, as a potential “Swiss Army knife.” He is likely to be at first base when Kevin Ward is pitching.

Another graduate from the 2019 championship team was the very steady Kyle Algieri, who held down second base. Coach Gray is looking at senior Addison Davis and freshman Joe Gomez as possible replacements for Algieri.

Coach Gray said that he is intrigued by the prospects for freshman pitcher J. J.  Glasscock, who Gray says has some of the best velocity of all freshman prospects in the area.

Gray expects to carry about 16 players on his varsity squad, He also said that he thinks the JV and middle school teams will be strong.

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