ASHEVILLE – Last year was dodgy at times for Asheville High senior Jared Patterson.
His second full season as a high school catcher is going much better though, and the most-feared hitter in the Cougars’ lineup is confident that his baseball team can still make the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
“(Coach Bill Hillier) said we need to finish above .500 to have a shot, and if we work together as a team, I think it’s possible,” Patterson said.
“The seniors on this team have played baseball together for many years now, even before middle school so we’re all close friends.”
Tuesday’s 8-6 home win over Erwin improved Asheville’s record to 8-9 overall and 3-6 in the Mountain Athletic Conference. With three conferences games to go, the team is currently third in the MAC 3-A standings and second-place North Buncombe (9-9, 4-6) won both head-to-head matchups in the case of a tiebreaker.
The Cougars were scheduled to play a makeup game Wednesday at home against Morganton Freedom.
“Pitching has been the biggest thing for us,” Hillier said.
“When Langston (Haden) or Noah (Cook) pitch, we can compete in just about any game. (Tuesday) was Noah’s first win. He has pitched great, and I feel bad for him, because he’s not a 1-6 pitcher but we just haven’t played any defense behind him. And the opposite is true with Langston, we play great when he’s on the mound.”
Asheville has a half-dozen seniors who are fueling its playoff push – Cook, Haden, Patterson, Hawkins Maag, Rob McCormac and Jesse Rackley. A seventh one, Neal Hutchins, is missing this season after shoulder surgery.
The available seniors stepped up big-time on Tuesday.
Cook scattered 10 hits and five earned runs in a complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks. At the plate, he was 1-for-4 with three RBIs. Patterson went 2-3 with a double and Rackley was 1-4 with a double.
Asheville put three runs apiece on the board in the third and fourth innings.
The Cougars have five players who are hitting .300 or better — Patterson (.420), Eric Robinson (.327), Jack Whitehouse (.324), Rackley (.313) and Correy Williams (.300).
Through Tuesday, Patterson had produced more RBIs (15) and walks (10) than any other player with only four strikeouts. Furthermore, he might be the only mountain catcher who has yet to be caught stealing a base (Patterson has a team-high eight steals so far).
“We have no protection in the lineup for him and people still aren’t pitching to him,” Hillier said.
Haden (5-0) has a 0.52 earned-run average with 30 strikeouts in 40.2 innings pitched. Cook’s ERA is 3.53 with 33 strikeouts in 39.2 innings.
Haden has a fastball and a slider in his arsenal, but said he only throws about five sliders per game.
“This season has been a lot of fun, especially with it being my senior year,” Haden said.
“I think we’re in a good position, a lot better position than we were in at the beginning of the season. We just need to keep winning.”