5A Baseball Preview
The 2023 High School Baseball preseason has begun with the Steve Sanders Tournament wrapping up on Tuesday. With that, we have reached our final preview – but certainly not the least: Region 2-5A.
2022 record/results: 19-9 overall, region 2-5A champions, eliminated in district championship by Fort Mill.
Graduated: 8 seniors moved on from last year’s team that was loaded with speed and firepower, including Hudson Lee (now at Wake Forest), Braeden Harrison (Anderson University), Adams Faucett (Limestone), Owen Turner (SMU), Avery Still (Gardner-Webb), Jake Keltner (Gardner-Webb).
Returners: 8. Infielders Grayson Morton (1st base), Brycen Plexico (shortstop), and Clay Crossley (3rd base), outfielder Chas Welch (senior – Center/Right Fielder), Mitch Wilson (pitcher/catcher), Bray Parton (pitcher), and catchers Walker Jackson (junior), and Josh Brown (junior).
Expected rotation: 2 starting pitchers return from 2022 that are locked into the rotation in juniors Mitch Wilson and Bray Parton. According to Coach Jolly, finding the #3 man is a work in progress.
Other returning pitchers that could see some starts or at least several quality innings in relief include seniors Hasten Meeks and Brycen Plexico, and junior Grayson Morton.
The Cavs will feature a lot of depth as far as pitching this season with the addition of several newcomers in juniors Campbell Whitener, Aaron Sturgill, and Alex Peake, as well as sophomores Colten Earnhardt, Jackson Wyatt, and Coleman Brown. Freshman Palmer Hornick could also see some time on the bump this season.
In 2022, Jack Jolly and his Dorman Cavaliers won their 4th region championship in the last 5 years before falling to a very good Fort Mill team in the district championship. While they lost a lot of that speed and firepower that carried them a year ago, it balanced out as they return just as much experience as they lost with one other added bonus they did not have the luxury of for much of last season – added depth on the mound that could be a huge upside in Dorman making a run for not only a 5th region title, but a deep run in the playoffs in 2023.
“Team defense will be our greatest strength this season. We are very athletic on the infield and in the outfield with a ton of experience returning behind the plate. As far as someone to look out for, Chas Welch has really put in the work, has really improved, and is poised for a great season.”, said Coach Jolly.
Asked about his thoughts on the region and where his team stacks up, Jolly was very straightforward, and says he has some high expectations for one team in particular – Spartanburg.
“Boiling Springs and Spartanburg will be teams to watch out for and Spartanburg could be the surprise team of the year in 5A. Both Boiling Springs and Spartanburg have some good starting pitching along with other talented position players. Jackson Cole (pitcher, BS), Ian Squires, Garrett Fulmer, and Joe Cash (Spart) and Kaden Roach (Byrnes) are players to watch out for this season. I see Dorman somewhere in the middle of the pack as we start the season.”
Asked about his thoughts on who could be a threat in the 5A classification as a whole, Jolly believes that Lexington, River Bluff and Dutch Fork will be very good this year. He also stated that TL Hanna and JL Mann will be two of the teams that will be competing for the upperstate championship.
2022 record: 15-7 (9-3 region 3-5A)
2022 results: Eliminated in Upperstate tournament with back to back losses to Fort Mill and Blythewood after defeating JL Mann to win their district.
Graduated: Tristan Smith (Clemson), Ashton Smith (SMC), Davis Starnes (Limestone), Landon Ellis.
Returners of note: Jackson Cole (Senior Pitcher, Clemson commit), Luke Compton (Senior Outfielder, Newberry commit), Hudson Wilson (Senior infielder, Anderson University commit), Corben Childers (Senior pitcher/infielder), Chancen Cole (Junior Infielder/pitcher), Jackson Reel (Senior infielder/pitcher), Justin Dawkins.
-Jackson Cole – “Jackson was 6-2 last season and really was on everybody’s radar this past Summer before signing with Clemson. He will be our ace and will log a lot of innings”, said BSHS head coach Jeff Lipscomb.
-Corben Childers – “Corben is a guy who pitched very little for us last year, but he’s still a guy we’re counting on. His velocity has jumped and he is our #2 guy.”
Boiling Springs is a program that is well-respected. That respect is well-founded, as they have built a culture of consistency – almost always making it at the very least to the district final if not into the upperstate championship bracket. The Bulldogs always carry with them a wealth of talent on the mound, play strong in the field, and have a balance of power and speed that makes their offense tough. These things are what Coach Lipscomb says are going to be the strength of his team.
“We can play defense and at times, swing the bats very well. We feel comfortable with our starters” said Lipscomb about his team’s strengths. But he didn’t hold anything back about the biggest question mark they face entering the season.
“Coming out of the pen will be a number of guys that each bring different things to the table. Besides Jackson Reel, we are just not sure of who those bullpen guys will be or how they will perform.”
He was quick to point out how excited he is about the potential for a big senior season out of Luke Compton.
“Luke Compton brings a lot to the table. He is our top returning hitter and runs really well. He will play center and steal a lot of bases for us.”
Regarding region 2-5A, the 5A classification as a whole, and how his guys stack up:
“Spartanburg will be the surprising team and will compete for the region championship. They have a lot of returners with some big arms and an outstanding catcher. Dorman is Dorman. They are always good and will compete. Byrnes has some quality arms and that’s how you win ball games. Gaffney had a young team last year and is getting better. It’s a very tough and competitive region. I really like our team. There are some questions, but they are great kids that I love to coach and I have a lot of trust in them. They are high character young men and I think that goes really far. Clover, Lexington, River Bluff, Dutch Fork, Fort Mill are all good teams from around the state. There are a number of teams in the state that can win a state championship. It’s whoever is hot at the end of the year. I hope it’s Boiling Springs!! Why not us?!”
The Vikings have been a young team over the last few seasons that have been enduring the growing pains. Last season, they made the playoffs before bowing out after back to back losses in the district round to TL Hanna and Clover, who were among the top 5A teams a year ago.
This season, they return 12 guys – Senior right handed pitcher/infielder Ian Squires, Senior Infielder/righty Donterian Davis, Senior Outfielder/Lefty Joe Cash, Senior Outfielder Andrew Dantin, Senior Catcher Garrett Fulmer, Freshman Shortstop States Farr, Infielder Chase Staley, Right Hander/Outfielder Peyton Naylor, Catcher Luke Fisher, Junior Infielder Tyler Stevenson, Senior Outfielder JD Cash, and Senior righty/Outfielder Emory Butehorn.
Spartanburg does welcome one new face this season. Following the resignation of Wesley Brown following the 2022 season to go and take the opening at Woodruff, Jesse Dyar, who has coached for a long time and was most recently the head coach at Gaffney, was named his successor. Asked what drew Dyar to Spartanburg, he had this to say about the job, the team, and the community.
“Spartanburg High School has been a dream of mine for a long time. My wife and brother-in-laws are Spartanburg grads. Spartan high means a lot to my family and is home for us. The community is special and we’re so thankful to be a part of it. It is an unbelievable place to work and I am extremely blessed to be a part of it. This group of young men have been a real blessing to coach everyday. They are a special group on and off the field that represents District 7 well. It has been a while since Spartanburg baseball has been relevant, but the best is yet to come!”
Dyar noted that the strength of his squad looks to be the leadership among the players on the team that is loaded with seniors, and that he has big expectations for all of his players. He also noted that right now, it is still too early for him to say who will be in their pitching rotation because he has so many different options to go with.
We already know that region 2-5A is a weekly dogfight and the 5A classification as a whole is even tougher. Coach Dyar’s thoughts on them are no different.
“Region 2-5A is a great region. Every team in the region is serious about baseball. On any given night, if you don’t bring your A game, you can get beat. Historically, the region prepares you to make a run in the playoffs due to the great competition. 5A baseball in South Carolina is highly competitive. There are a lot of great programs, both historical and newcomers. There are so many programs that have a chance to win a state title. I don’t think we have had back to back champions since we have gone to the 5A classification. That in itself shows you just how hard 5A baseball is year in and year out. To get through districts and upperstate takes great play and also get some breaks go your way. You just have to hope that you can have your team playing hot at the end of the year so you can make a run.”
2022 was a tough year for the Byrnes Rebels. They were a good team and were very competitive up until their ace Gabe Rogers suffered an injury that prevented him from being able to pitch, limiting him to being used mostly as a hitter. They ended up bowing out in the district round after consecutive losses – 1 to JL Mann and 1 to Northwestern.
Graduated: Gabe Rogers, Grayson Selepes, Ethan Edwards, Jackson Cornell, and Brayden Rogers.
Returnees: 6. Senior Pitcher/Infielder Kadan Roach, Junior Center Fielder/Nic Degler, Junior Catcher Jake Short, Junior Shortstop Brayden Price, Junior Payne Sheriff, and Junior Left Fielder Noah McGarity.
Expected rotation: Kadan Roach, Payne Sheriff (all-region last year as a sophomore), and sophomore Connor Crenshaw. All 3 are right handers.
Byrnes will enter the 2023 season under new leadership. Following last season, Michael Maus stepped down as the Head Coach. Taylor Hollifield, a young up and comer that played his college baseball at North Greenville University and his high school ball at Boiling Springs, was hired as his successor after being an assistant at Byrnes for a couple of years, and a brief stint at Limestone College as a volunteer assistant coach.
I asked Hollifield to give some thoughts on the state of his team as they prepare for the season.
“Losing Gabe Rogers, Grayson Selepes, Ethan Edwards, Jackson Cornell, and Brayden Rogers, who all played major innings for us will mean we will be considered a ‘young’ team this year. But, we also return some guys who played lots of innings for us as well. Kadan Roach will be the guy who anchors the pitching staff as well as hit in the middle of the order. But, it is our juniors that will play a major part in determining what type of season we will have.”
Taylor, while undecided about what he is most excited about with this team, has some intrigue in his sophomore class as well.
“I am looking forward to how our sophomore class does. We will have 3-4 of them seeing considerable time at the varsity level. Jaxson Camp, Connor Crenshaw, Jake Moss, and Harrison Keels will see a lot of playing time.”
Regarding region 2-5A:
“I think we have a very stout and deep region. Boiling Springs and Spartanburg are the 2 teams with the most depth. Spartanburg returns a ton of experience. Dorman always finds ways to win games and play sound, fundamental baseball, which makes them a tough opponent. Keep an eye out for Mitch Wilson (Dorman), Jackson Cole (Boiling Springs), Drew Medley (Gaffney), Ian Squires (Spartanburg), and Joe Cash (Spartanburg).”
Asked about the 5A classification as a whole and how his team stacks up:
“5A is extremely deep and has some really good players all around. Summerville is loaded. Lexington is always a team to watch. River Bluff is very solid with some big time players. Spartanburg should be a surprise team. I genuinely like the team we have this year. I think we have the chance to surprise some people. We are a young bunch, which can come with some mistakes. But, I feel we have a group that plays very well together.”
Note: After several attempts, I was unable to get a response from Gaffney, and so they had to be excluded. But, I will be sure to get out to see Gaffney this season and will still include them in coverage.