Chargers aim for No. 1 regional seed

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Central High School’s varsity baseball team expects its 2018 season to be remembered among the standout campaigns in the school’s history. “It’s not just my expectation, but more importantly, it’s the expectation and goals of this team to finish the regular season as the No. 1 seed in our region, be in the regional championship game and play in the state tournament,” Chargers Head Coach Mike Atkins said. The last time the Chargers were in the regional title game and earned a state tournament berth was 1994. They won the regional title that year and finished 23-5 overall. Central is fresh off a season in which it finished 17-5, falling narrowly in the regional quarterfinals. The Chargers lost three starters from that team to graduation: all-state second team designated hitter Chris Fowler, also a catcher, second baseman Chandler Childress and left fielder Malik Foster. This year, Central features eight seniors, two sophomores and one junior. “I feel this is a closer, more cohesive unit than last year’s squad that went 17-5,” Atkins said. Entering Tuesday’s scheduled road game against elite Randolph- Henry High School, the Chargers held a 3-0 record for this season. They opened with a 9-0 road win over Buckingham County High School on March 15 and routed visiting Cumberland County High School 10-0 on March 19. “I am overall pleased with our team’s performances in our first two games of the year, particularly with the lack of on-the-field preparation due to weather,” Atkins said March 21. On Thursday, Central topped visiting Bluestone High School 10-3. Veteran leadership will benefit the Chargers this season. “We have four senior captains who will be leading this team on and off the field,” Atkins said. “All four will handle the primary responsibilities on the mound, and all four were all-region selections last season.” These pitchers/ captains include Ethan Hoover, Christian Hall, Nate Nowlin and Jeffrey Goodwin. Hoover, the 2017 Conference 42 baseball Player of the Year, will also spend time at first base. Hall will see time at first and third base, Nowlin is also a second baseman and outfielder, and Goodwin is also a catcher and third baseman. Senior L.J. Watson is playing shortstop, and senior Noah Dunbar is in center field. “Sophomore Austin Hall will take over third base defensive duties along with junior Jackson Dalton and sophomore Ben Anthony rounding out the outfield duties,” Atkins said. “I feel this lineup is very strong defensively.” He noted that strong backup support will come from senior outfielder/pinch runner Trey Figgatt and senior pitcher/first baseman Cary Parrish “I feel we are very strong throughout the batting order offensively,” Atkins said. “L.J. Watson gives us a very good leadoff batter and speed on the bases. We remain pretty solid at the plate throughout. Nate Nowlin, Austin Hall, Ethan Hoover, Noah Dunbar, Christian Hall and Jeffrey Goodwin provide a solid batting lineup, consistent and timely hitting, along with smart base running. Each is capable of big offensive numbers. This is an experienced and talented team both in the field and at the plate.” The Chargers visit Prince Edward County High School on Thursday at 5 p.m.