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Middle Schools Launch Baseball Programs

By Pete Zamplas- The four public middle schools in Henderson County have begun play in a new official sport for them — baseball.

Apple Valley CF Kylo Wright is about to slide under Rugby’s throw to third base Monday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Many players are from traveling recreation league teams, and former teammates now split among the four schools.

Play started last week. Most home games are either at Blue Ridge Community College’s spacious renovated field, or Berkeley Mills Park (HMS, Rugby) that the City of Hendersonville owns. Rugby plays three (half) of home contests at nearby West Henderson. HMS plays at HHS’ home field of Green Meadows near Seventh Avenue, on March 28 versus Madison.

HCPS Chief Human Resources Officer Scott Rhodes, former North Henderson baseball coach, credits the school board, commissioners and county recreation, Hendersonville Public Works as “game-changers.”

Head and assistant coaches for each school are Rugby Raiders’ Kyle Barker and Terry Brown, Flat Rock Eagles’ Andrew Stoker, Cody Wesley and Trey Allman; Apple Valley’s Ryan Koch, John Street, Hunter Street and Zac Tatham; and Hendersonville Bearcats’ Brent Stepp assisted by City Councilman Jerry Smith. Smith managed Hendersonville High Bearcats for many seasons.

HMS lefty starter Brody Parris throws out the Flat Rock batter, who hustles to first base. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The Blue Ridge Athletics Conference has its tourney April 29-May 6. The league’s East Division has the four Henderson County teams and nearby Brevard and Polk.

The national pastime like all sports help build individual character, teamwork, persistence, dedication, preparation, and maximizing talent and effort.

Flat Rock Athletic Director Bruce Gilliam sees how student-athletes get to “challenge themselves physically and mentally” and play for the team. He emphasizes how “your athleticism is only temporary. But your character — the type of person you are — lasts forever. Be compassionate, honest, grateful and humble.”

Hendersonville Middle principal Luke Manuel told The Tribune how discipline and focus from athletics can focus to better listening and absorbing lessons in class as well. Much hinges on “situational” hitting and interpersonal reactions alike.

Rugby’s six tenets are “Put my team’s success ahead of individual glory,” “respect and cooperate,” sportsmanship, leadership, and “work hard and strive for improvement,” and role modeling.

Rugby opened with a 13-5 thrashing of Brevard, on the road last Thursday, March 7. Jackson Lyda had three hits and scored four runs, while Jude Lyda also had three hits, and two runs scored. Alex Anderson, Lukas Kachillo and Jake Lindsey each made two hits. Five Raiders each knocked in two runs. Kacillo yielded merely one run and struck out five, in four innings pitched.

Then on Monday, Rugby defeated Apple Valley 8-0 at Berkeley Park. Flat Rock hosted Brevard. HMS was at Polk.

Rugby erupted for three runs, scoring on a passed ball then thundering deep doubles by Devery Hernandez (3 for 3) and Jackson Lyda. Raider pitchers led by starter Nicky Stanko (6K in 3 IP) yielded merely one hit in the seven innings. Kylo Wright got AV’s hit, and slid under a throw to reach third base.

Lefty Brody McMillan winds up. This pitch was hit by HMS as a sharp liner to him. McMillan stabbed it, then threw to first base for a double play. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hendersonville won 7-3 at Smoky Mountain March 4. Then last Thursday, Hendersonville edged Flat Rock 3-2. Flat Rock scored twice in the top of the first, but none after that. Truitt Manuel singled in the go-ahead run for HMS. Bearcat pitchers Mason Coren struck out six, lefty starter Brody Parris four and Sam Wolfe two for 12 in all.

Flat Rock lefty reliever Brody McMillan speared a liner, then threw to first for a double play. This morphed into an exhibition, since umps did not show. They were pressed into action at make-up high school baseball games. Still, competitive fire burned hot at historic Berkeley Park.

Flat Rock lost at Macon March 4. Apple Valley lost a close 7-5 contest to Polk at home March 7. The Knights scored a run per inning, over all five frames.

AVMS assistant coach Hunter Street is a 2018 grad of North Henderson, and was senior class president. He played baseball. He studies at BRCC. He is getting statistical training. “We take high-level analytics, and modify them for the middle school level.” He uses UNC’s Readiness Report, tracking where pitches and hit balls go and intangibles among nine factors.

Today, Thursday, March 14, Rugby is at Hendersonville in Berkeley Park, Flat Rock hosts Polk at BRCC, and AVMS is at Brevard.

Jude Lyda scores Rugby’s first run Monday, in an 8-0 victory. Issac Johnson is behind him, on deck. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Early next week Flat Rock hosts Rugby at BRCC and HMS welcomes AVMS at Berkeley. Tuesday, March 19 is the date on local schools’ calendar;e the conference instead lists the games for Monday.

Next Thursday, March 21 Apple Valley hosts Flat Rock, Rugby hosts Polk at West and HMS is at Brevard. All games are to begin at 4:30 p.m. EDT. Daylight Savings Time began Sunday, as clocks advanced one hour to “spring forward.”

Meanwhile, local middle schoolers are springing forward in their inaugural baseball seasons.

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