High School Sports

High school baseball preview: It’s a bad year when Lewisville doesn’t compete for a state title

Lewisville senior Trey Keels is part of a solid Lions’ pitching staff that should help Billy Keels’ program contend in the 1A ranks again.
Lewisville senior Trey Keels is part of a solid Lions’ pitching staff that should help Billy Keels’ program contend in the 1A ranks again. Veasey Conway

Over the past couple of decades, Lewisville baseball has established itself as a proven winner in the 1A high school ranks.

With six state championships since 1985, and appearances in the Upper State finals five of the past seven seasons, head coach Billy Keels agreed that the Lions have a winning tradition.

“It’s always been that, if you don’t make a run for it (state championship), it’s been a bad year,” he said last week on the eve of his 15th year coaching Lions baseball.

Lewisville won the Upper State title last year after going 8-7 in the first 15 games of the season, before eventually falling to Latta in the state finals in three games.

This year’s Lions are faced with the task of making it back to the top of the mountain, and have the tools to do so with many players from last year’s team returning.

On the mound, Lewisville has a trio of pitchers, the ace being lefty Drew Colvin, who fanned 81 batters in 70 innings last year, totaling up a 1.98 ERA.

Also returning on the pitching staff are Trey Keels, who beat Latta in Game 1 of the state finals last year and also provides a solid glove in the infield, as well as right-hander Andrew Culp who Keels said “has gotten stronger” since last season.

Three out of the four infielders from last year’s team are also back, albeit with some changes. Denver Mosley made the move from third to first, and Keels hopes that will bring more production from the 6-foot-2 senior.

“I think moving to first will put less pressure on him defensively, and make him be more productive as a hitter,” said Keels. “That’s definitely been the case so far; he’s been hitting the ball hard.”

The Lions also return experience behind the plate in the form of junior Alex Reed, a defensive-minded catcher, who Keels mentioned as a “special” type of player.

The outfield, on the other hand, has more questions to answer for the Lions; four of the six seniors that graduated were outfielders. Senior captain Drew Steward, junior Garrison Hyatt and sophomore Quentin Sanders are in the mix to start.

The Lions will face a region that is as tough as it has ever been, with three teams ranked in the top 10 in the latest South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association 1A poll released back in early February- McBee (No. 3), Lewisville (No. 5) and Lamar (No. 8). Keels called the eventual chase for the region title “a dogfight” and said that “these three teams would win most (1A) regions.”

Region 3-A should again prepare the Lions for crunch time in May.

“We have the ingredients to make a run again,” Keels said.

Local regions roundup

While other teams are breathing a sigh of relief, Northwestern is trying to replace the production of last year’s South Carolina Mr. Baseball - and now College of Charleston starting second baseman - Dupree Hart. Junior catcher Brandon Ashley and senior pitcher/infielder Cameron Smith should bring pop to the Trojan’s batting order, while sophomore pitcher and South Carolina commit John Gilreath looks to be the ace on the mound.

Nation Ford has its sights set on a region championship. Returning talent like athletic second baseman Alex Stennett and newcomers like pitcher and Wichita State signee, Drake Durham, should make the Falcons a factor as the spring wears on.

Despite losing six starters from last year’s team that lost in the 4A District III championship, the Rock Hill Bearcats are very optimistic. Starting experience returns in seniors Brandon Banks, Wes Bostic, and Conner Edkins.

The Chester Cyclones are looking to build off one of the school’s best baseball seasons last year that ended in the second round of the 3A District III bracket. South Carolina commit Jake Wright is a do-it-all player for the Cyclones. Consistent domination from the leadoff role in the batting order and ace numbers on the pitching mound make Wright one of the area’s top talents. Despite losing All-Area player of the year Trent Autry and ace pitcher Josh Alley, Chris Powell’s Cyclones should again challenge for a Region 3-3A title.

Last year was on the more successful seasons in the history of the South Pointe baseball program. The Stallions return their two pitching aces, Limestone commit Will Dunn and junior Daniel Lipe. The Stallions return six starters from last year’s team, including junior catcher and Coastal Carolina commit, Bo Taylor. Building off historic wins over Northwestern and Fort Mill, the Stallions are looking to contend in the region.

- Reid Williams

Players to watch

▪ Jake Wright, Chester - Sr. P - Wright, a returning all-area selection and South Carolina commit was a consistent lead-off batter, hitting .422 with a home run, 13 RBI and a .563 on-base percentage. On the mound, Wright was 5-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 43 innings.

▪ Jimmy Marcelli, Clover - Sr. P - hit .351 with a home run and 25 RBIs, and was 3-2 as a pitcher with a 2.66 ERA in 25 innings last season.

▪ Nick Manco, Fort Mill - Sr. 1B - Manco hit .300 last season and will provide crucial experience to a Yellow Jackets team that graduated double digit seniors.

▪ Josh Evans, Indian Land- Evans’ coach, Joseph Robinson, called his senior captain the fastest player in Region 4-2A. Evans, an outfielder, is committed to USC-Lancaster.

▪ Drew Colvin, Lewisville- Jr. P- Colvin was 7-1 with a 1.98 ERA last season, making All-Region 3-A after striking out 81 batters in 70 2/3 innings.

▪ Drake Durham, Nation Ford- Sr, P- Wichita State signee who moved to Fort Mill from New Richmond High School in Wisconsin. He was named a Perfect Game Underclass honorable mention All-American in 2015 and also earned all-conference and all-state honors in Wisconsin.

▪ Brandon Ashley, Northwestern- Jr. C- talented catcher that will bring the pop to Northwestern’s lineup. Last season he batted .450 with four home runs and 29 RBIs.

▪ Cameron Smith, Northwestern- Sr. P/IF- hit .347 with 23 RBIs and was 4-0 as a pitcher with a 0.84 ERA last season

▪ John Gilreath, Northwestern- Soph. P- South Carolina Commit and Under Armour All-American. Expect playing time to increase this season.

▪ Alex Stennett, Nation Ford- Jr. 2B- All-Region pick in the 2015 season, batted .431 with 17 stolen bases and two errors at second base last season.

▪ Brandon Banks, Rock Hill- Sr. C- This will be Banks’ fourth year starting behind the plate for the Bearcats. Last season he batted in 12 runs along with two home runs. The work he does behind the plate may be the most impressive aspect of his game, logging a 1.000 fielding percentage last year. Banks signed to Limestone earlier in the year.

▪ Wes Bostic, Rock Hill- Sr. OF- Although a starter at 2B since his sophomore year, Bostic will be making the move the the outfield this year. An all-region pick last year, Bostic hit one homerun, helping him total 15 RBIs.

▪ Will Dunn, South Pointe-Sr. P- Limestone commit and the ace of the Stallions rotation. Put in 44 innings of work on the mound while picking up one win and 26 K’s last season.