By JOHN SMITHSON
The North Myrtle Beach High School varsity baseball team has begun its preparations for another tough battle in 6AAAA region baseball. After weeks of team practices, the Chiefs scheduled three scrimmages to begin facing live pitching and competition.
One of those scrimmages was held last Wednesday when South Brunswick High School visited The Hank for a “game” with the Chiefs. While the teams were concluding warmups, I talked with nine-year head coach of the Chiefs BA Alderson. The Chiefs are ranked fifth in the state 4A preseason poll by the coaches association, with Hartsville and South Florence from their region not far behind in the top ten.
I asked Alderson about the road ahead for his Chiefs. “It’s always a dog fight in our region, which is really good and really deep. There are several teams that have a chance to win it. It just depends on who plays the better game on the nights that we play each other.”
I also asked the coach about injuries to his players, since he had lost starting players last year before the season got underway. “We lost Luke Roupe, our pitcher/first baseman who has committed to Vanderbilt. He will be out for at least three more weeks, but at least we are going to get him back. The two players we lost last year were out the whole season. It will help when we get him back.”
As far as the experience and depth of the team, Alderson seemed confident about the “other pieces” of the team. “We have some quality depth on the mound that we didn’t have last year, and a lot of our position players are returning although they weren’t full time players last year. So they are stepping into new roles this year, but they have had some experience.”
Questioned on his offense, Alderson stated that it “was still to be determined. I felt going into the season that pitching and defense were going to be our strong suit. I think eventually, after we get to see enough live pitching, the hitting will get better. But we do a pretty good job of being able to bunt, hit and run, and do some other things to manufacture runs, other than just get up there and bounce it off the fences.”
The region season begins on March 14 against Wilson, but the Chiefs have their usual battle against some strong teams this week at the Coastal Invitational Tournament, March 2-5, held at Waccamaw High School. “We start March 2nd against Socastee in the CIT. They have three Division 1 players and it will be a pretty evenly matched ball game. We just have to play a good game against them,” Alderson concluded.
After the CIT the Chiefs play St. James March 10, before region play begins.
I sat through four innings of the Chiefs scrimmage game against South Brunswick last Wednesday, some lasting two outs, as the two teams changed their lineups to get hitters into the game, with pitchers from both teams throwing one or two innings.
South Brunswick’s lineup featured Walker Jenkins, who played center field in the game. Jenkins is listed as the seventh top draft pick in this year’s major league draft, and one of only two high school players in the list of top ten prospects for this year. Jenkins has committed to North Carolina.
Jenkins is a 6 foot 3 inch 205 pound player, who quickly showed why he is considered such a prize.
As the second hitter for West Brunswick, he hit a long home run over the right field fence for their first run. After the Chiefs took a 2-1 lead on a single to left by Allen McCormick in the bottom of the first, Jenkins hit another shot to right in the fourth inning to drive in two runs. Both home runs were the kind where the fielders just stand and look at the ball.
Luckily the Chiefs won’t have to face him again.