PILOT MOUNTAIN — With East Surry’s varsity baseball team undefeated and in pursuit of a 1A state title, the junior varsity Cardinals flew somewhat under the radar.
After a 19-1 campaign under first-year coach David Johnson, it doesn’t look like East’s varsity team should expect much of a drop-off next season.
“That varsity team will lose a great group of seniors, but the one thing our varsity programs will get with this sophomore bunch is a group of kids that know how to win, a group of kids that expects to win,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot to say for that.”
It was a banner year for the JV teams as football (10-0), basketball (18-1) and baseball (19-1) combined for a 47-2 record.
The three teams were undefeated at home. The basketball team lost a game at Winston-Salem Prep and the baseball team suffered its only loss at West Wilkes.
Sophomore Tyler Smith was the No. 1 pitcher on the baseball team. He posted a 0.49 ERA, had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 9-1, and went undefeated on the hill.
“He would have been on a lot of varsity baseball teams this year at other schools,” Johnson said of Smith, who had a pair of 13-strikeout games against Walkertown this past season.
Smith also let the Cards in hitting with an on-base percentage of better than .700.
Leadoff hitter Gage Edwards’ on-base percentage was more than .500, and Alex Eubanks and catcher Staymon Johnson were right around .500.
Wyatt Guy was the team’s No. 2 pitcher — tossing a no-hitter against Surry Central. Luke Horton also threw for the Cards.
Johnson said everyone on the team contributed this season — with Bailey Johnson, Eddie Scott, Ryan Sisk, Carson Cheek, Travis Taylor, Ty Brooks, Corben Kiser, Charlie Freeman and Drew Cain rounding out the roster.
Twelve of the 15 players were sophomores.
“I had some kids, it was there first year playing high school ball,” Johnson said. “They stepped in and did some real good things at crunch time. Bailey Johnson got some clutch pinch hits for us, some sacrifice flies. Eddie Scott, his classmates convinced him to come out. He was one of my main baserunners for my pitchers and catchers, he did a great job.
“I appreciate all of them.”
Johnson said one of the games that stood out was the last game of the season against the Wolfpack.
East had a 3-0 lead before Walkertown came back and tied the game late.
“Wyatt gets on with an error, Gage bunts, and the ball got by first base, moving runner Charlie Freeman to third. They walk Horton intentionally to load the bases and Staymon gets a base hit,” Johnson said. “They are winners. They fought back and did what they had to do.”
Perhaps they borrowed the winning mentality from the varsity team. East is 25-0 this season and dating back to last season, the Cards have won 48 of their last 50 games.
“A lot of our success goes to the ability the varsity has, and them not needing any younger kids,” said Johnson, who helped coach varsity basketball and football. “Coach (Barry) Hall has one sophomore on the varsity team, Blake Marion. I know there’s a lot of varsity programs around that depend on sophomores, even freshmen.
“I appreciate all of them making my first year coaching JV baseball fun. It was memorable. They believe in each other, and trust each other. Whether it was football, basketball or baseball, it was a group that knew how to win.”