ASHEVILLE – Carolina Day left fielder Manny Lopez has come full circle in his high school baseball career.
Lopez’s freshman season (2013) was the last time the school had fielded a varsity team until this spring.
“This past Saturday, we played at home and a lot of friends and peers came out to watch us. It was good to have that feeling again,” Lopez said.
“People are coming out and we’re all trying to do the best we can for them.”
Record-wise, the Wildcats can’t do any better than their 2-0 start.
The team only has 10 players and two seniors – Lopez and center fielder Luke Antinori – but has scored early wins over Christ the King and Davidson Day.
Carolina Day travels to Calvary Baptist (which is in the Winston-Salem area) for Friday’s 4 p.m. game.
“We’re excited that we get to play varsity again,” Wildcats coach Anthony Penland said.
“We’ve started pretty decent and we’ve set a goal to get to the (NCISAA 2-A) playoffs. It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish and we’ve still got some work to do.”
Penland has been either a head coach or assistant at Carolina Day for 15 years. The varsity program was temporarily shuttered due to low numbers, but the Wildcats continued to play junior-varsity games in 2014 and 2015.
“We only have 10 kids this year, but I know those 10 kids are going to work hard and we’ll go as far as they take us,” Penland said.
“It’s a good group to coach.”
Antinori said he and his teammates are enjoying all their newfound attention.
“There wasn’t a lot of talk about baseball on campus in the past,” Antinori said.
“Now there is kind of a buzz going around. People know that we have the potential to be good. We’re all feeling really good right now. There was a lot of cheer on the bus (after Wendesday’s 7-6 win at Davidson Day).”
So far, the top hitters for the Wildcats are Antinori (.500), Elijah Fiveash (.500), Michael Connelly (.429), and Austin Prichard (.400). Fiveash has driven in six of the team’s 14 runs. Connelly and Henry Chandler have been the winning pitchers.