A large crowd gathered in Southern Pines, N.C. for Pinecrest High's season opener against Forsyth Country Day School (Lewisville, N.C.). While the biggest reason over 50 scouts were in attendance was to see righthander Dillon Maples start for Pinecrest, Forsyth had plenty of its own to put on display.
Not only did Forsyth have righthander Adam Griffin starting on the mound—his fastball sits in the low 90s—but the Furies started the season as the No. 47 team in the country. They have five Division I signees, three of which will see time on the mound: Griffin (North Carolina), outfielder Seth Constable (South Carolina), first baseman/lefthander George Carter (UNC), righthander Brandon Culbreth (NC State) and junior shortstop D.C. Arendas (South Carolina).
Pinecrest opened the scoring with a two-run home run by shortstop Joey Vecchinoe in the third inning. The Patriots led 4-1 going into the seventh, but Forsyth put up three in the top half to tie the game. Pinecrest loaded the bases with two outs before outfielder Pat Moore delivered a walk-off single.
The 5-4 loss was an early slip-up for Forsyth, but the Furies are likely to face their share of tough games with an ambitious schedule. This was their season opener and they had to face a righthander that is a top prospect for this year's draft.
"I liked our approach against Maples," Forsyth head coach Andy Partin said. "He's a tremendous arm. That's why we scheduled this game early on. We want our guys to play at the highest level possible. I liked our approach. I thought we made a poor adjustment as a team when they switched from the hard guy to the soft guy. We got excited at the end and made a comeback, I liked that. Offensively, we wasted a lot of at-bats, especially with runners in scoring position, striking out a couple times."
Griffin's fastball ranged from 89-94 mph, but sat mostly 90-91. He also worked with a 75-77 slurve and flashed a mid-70s changeup. Griffin was pulled after 4 2/3 innings with close to 80 pitches. He struck out six, walked two and allowed three hits. Culbreth worked in relief, sitting around 88 with his fastball and throwing a mid-70s curveball before giving way to righthander/outfielder Tyler Alberts.
"I was real proud of our pitchers," Partin said. "Griffin, Culbreth, Albers, they all did real well. Hats off to those guys. They all did real well."
Griffin shows arm strength with his fastball velocity, but is probably best suited going to North Carolina to continue his development. Even so, he has improved over the last year. His delivery has less crossfire than in the past and he's holding his velocity better.
"He's come a long way in the last two years and that's a credit to him," Partin said. "He's done a great job. We're trying to get him more on line, in a direct line to the plate and getting him to a balance point. Last year, he threw the whole season in the stretch. This is the first year we're trying to get him in the windup. Guys don't draft relievers. You draft starters."
Maples had a challenging lineup with the first four hitters committed to D-I programs. Arendas may have the most upside of any, being a junior shortstop with a lean frame and strong arm, but Carter impressed Wednesday night when he squared up a 91 mph fastball from Maples for a laser home run to left-center field.
"It felt pretty good," Carter, a lefthanded swinger, said. "I got a fastball out over the plate and did what I'm supposed to."
Forsyth figures to bounce back from the early loss, but has a tough road ahead. On March 12, the Furies will face Rocky Mount (N.C.) High, who is expected to start righthander Benton Moss—a righthander in the High School Top 100. Then on March 16, they will play against Miami's Florida Christian School at Elon University. Florida Christian lost some key players from a 2010 state playoff squad, but always puts a quality team on the field.
At the end of March, Forsyth will travel to Arizona to play in the Big League Dugout National Invitational, an event that consistently hosts the top teams from the Four Corners as well as some from California. In Forsyth's pool is the host, Horizon High of Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as Spanish Fork (Utah) High. Spanish Fork has Kayden Porter, a top righthander/first baseman for 2012. Forsyth also has preseason No. 2 Farragut High (Knoxville) on the schedule, but it remains to be seen if that game will indeed happen.
Carter and his teammates know Maples won't be their only challenge.
"It was a tough game to start, but we came out, competed a little bit," Carter said. "We turned things around later in the game. It's a stepping stone. It's a long season."
Around The Nation
• Righthander Hudson Boyd earned his second win of the season for Bishop Verot Catholic High (Fort Myers, Fla.). He combined with freshman Jeff Passantino to throw a no-hitter against St. John Neumann Catholic High of Naples, Fla. Boyd threw six innings, striking out 15 while walking just one. He also hit a home run. First baseman Dan Vogelbach was 0-for-2 with two hard groundouts and a walk, but he is hitting .462 with four home runs in his first 13 at-bats this season.
• Alex Bregman, a 2012 infielder, was presented his Richard W. "Dick" Case Player of the Year Award from USA Baseball today. He had his season debut last night for Albuquerque Academy and essentially started where he left off with Team USA's 16U squad. He hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat and added a RBI single in his second trip to the plate. He finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs, three runs scored and two stolen bases.
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