Kyle Brodt, Staff Writer
Wingate baseball looks prepared to challenge for its first SAC title since 2015. Last year, Wingate finished the season at 19-31 and 10-14 in the SAC. This year, however, the Bulldogs have started the season hot, winning their first four games including a three game sweep over Concord last weekend.
On opening day against Concord (W. Va.), Wingate was able to secure the 18-5 win behind power hitting from junior Tanner Forry and sophomore McCann Mellett. Mellett had a grand slam while Forry made his presence felt in his Bulldog debut with a pair of home runs, racking up six RBI.
Forry comes in as a transfer after two years at Harford Community College (Md.) Manager Jeff Gregory expects him to be a big contributor throughout the spring. “I think he will bring another added presence to our lineup that will help us score runs.” Forry is showing no signs of slowing down so far, batting .308, scoring seven runs, and, on the defensive end, adding an outfield assist through only four games.
The pitching staff had a rough season last year, posting a team ERA of 5.58 while opposing batters hit a sky-high .301 off Bulldog arms. Wingate also lost one of their best performers in Kory Behenna. Behenna was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 25th round of the MLB draft and had Wingate’s lowest individual ERA with at least nine appearances as well as being the team’s leader in saves.
However it seems the Bulldog pitchers have only gotten better with the team ERA down to a 2.38 clip as well as some stellar starts from senior Jimmy Doolittle and junior transfer Nick Stegman.
Doolittle started the finale to the three game series against Concord, and pitched 6.1 innings of two-hit, shutout baseball. He also posted seven strikeouts against just one walk. Doolittle was one of those pitchers that had a tough going last season.
Doolittle had an ERA of 5.25 in 2017 and only started one game. Coach Gregory, however, believes that Doolittle’s work ethic is key to his newfound success. “Jimmy has worked extremely hard at being in great physical shape,” Gregory says, “He has been dedicated to working on all areas of his game.”
Stegman wouldn’t be outdone for top debut performance by teammate Forry, as he took a perfect game through five innings before giving up just one hit in six innings of work. Stegman transfers in from Hagerstown Community College (Md.) and looks to be the midweek starter throughout the 2018 season.
After such dominant performances early on, Gregory believes that the staff, “Can keep it going all year long.”
Other major pieces of the squad include preseason All-SAC selection Ty Andrus. The senior outfielder led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, hits, doubles, and runs in 2017. So far, he is picking up right where he left off batting .313 with six runs scored.
Junior infielder Zach Little has also impressed early, leading the team in batting average through the four games and holding down the first base position defensively. When asked about any other specific names that might have an impact, Gregory instead referenced the overall depth of the team. “There are a lot of guys that could find themselves in big spots throughout the season that will help us achieve our goals.”
With such a blistering start and wide range of contributors, there is no doubt those goals start with a SAC championship and end as far as the newly reinvigorated Bulldogs can go.
The Bulldogs will travel to St. Augustine, Fla. this weekend for games against Flagler, Valdosta State and Florida Tech.
Edited by Brendan Shriver