DOBSON — While the winter high school sports are still in full swing, Surry Community College kicks off its baseball season this weekend.
Coach Jamie Lowe has spent the past three weeks working out his players and getting a feel for the squad.
“Some things have to go our way, but I really like this team,” Lowe said. “We’ve got to solidify our defense and pitch the way I think we can pitch.”
If the hitting comes around, he added, “it’s going to be a fun year for us.”
Good years are nothing new for SCC. The past three years, the Knights have won more games than anyone else in Region X.
The past two years, the team has cracked the national top 20 for junior colleges.
To show just how competitive this league is, Lowe noted, SCC isn’t ranked in the preseason poll, but three other teams from Region X are.
He said the Knights will have to go out and prove themselves against their league rivals to get back in the rankings.
Speaking of his guys, Lowe said, “Over the past three weeks, they’ve really gotten me more excited with how hard they work and how they listen. They’ve rejuvenated me right before the season starts.”
He said the team has decent speed and a little bit of power. If they don’t drive in runs with doubles or home runs, the players can manufacture scores with good base-running.
The coach is especially excited over his pitching staff.
Surry Central’s Hunter Smith looks to move into the starting rotation and pitch a lot of innings.
He will join two sophomores that are expected to lead the staff: Demetrus Ingram (Central Cabarrus High School) and Wes Helsabeck (North Forsyth).
Lowe said he recruited Colby Dishmond when he was at South Iredell. The pitcher and infielder decided to go to UNC-Greensboro for his education last summer, but he missed baseball and wanted a chance to play again. He transferred to SCC after one semester.
The 6-foot-3 Dishmond has a strong arm and a good bat. He could see time on the mound and in the field, Lowe said.
Luke Harris (Surry Central) has worked hard to come back from an injury, said Lowe.
“He is throwing the ball hard,” said Lowe, “and we expect big things from him.” The coach said Harris may get some spot starts and also bolster the bullpen.
Two other local players will fill out the staff: righthander Jordan Miller (East Surry) and southpaw Caleb Whitaker (North Surry).
Lowe has a couple of players penciled in for the middle of the batting order.
Sophomore catcher Jacob Barber (Davie County) and first baseman Sam Laws (Statesville) anchor the lineup.
SCC also announced the recent signings of some new blood for next year.
C.J. Rice, a senior at North Davidson, announced this week he would play for the Knights. As a junior last year, Rice hit .317 with a slugging percentage of .585. He joins Carson McNamera (Lake Norman) and Eldon Peters (A.L. Brown).
Some recent SCC players have moved on to bigger and better things.
Three players are now at Winston-Salem State University: Rafael Gonzalez, Brandon Harrison and Seth Mahaffey.
Zack Fleishman (West Stokes) is now at Tennessee Wesleyan College.
Jeremy McLeod is a member of the Blue Jays organization. Last year, he played in 12 games in a rookie league and batted .270.
Pitcher Hamilton Bennett has played three years in the minors and is expected to move up to the Mets’ AA team this year. Last season he went 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA in A-Advanced play.
The Knights kick off the season Saturday with a 1 p.m. game against Spartanburg-Methodist in South Carolina.
The team’s home debut is Feb. 23 at noon with College of Albemarle. The Knights will play a double-header on Saturday, then a third game on Sunday at noon.