If there’s a common thread between the Warren County baseball and softball teams this year, it’s trying to put last season firmly in the rearview mirror.
Any team may think that way coming off a subpar season, but these Eagles’ teams do seem poised to back it up after winning a combined six games in 2019. Both teams face the challenge of competing in a tough Northern Carolina Conference as the baseball boys return a host of talented players led by second-year coach Andy Short, while the softball squad hopes to benefit from a standout senior and a strong crop of freshmen that won a middle school conference title last season.
Coach Herley Moss is back in the dugout for his 10th season with the Warren County softball team, hoping to improve on a “trying” year in which the Eagles won twice. Meanwhile, conference mate South Granville reached the Class 2A semifinals, Bunn reached the second round of the 2A playoffs and Louisburg fell just a few runs short of the 1A semis.
“We’re looking to have a much better season this year,” said Moss. “We’re still young, don’t have numbers, but we’re going to see if we can make it happen.”
Pitcher Kalisha Harrison is the lone senior and unquestioned leader of the group after leading Warren County at the plate last season, but not having a full season as the No. 1 pitcher.
The other returning players for the Eagles are Niazerreyah Johnson, Chanta Cooper, Nijah Reed, Jersee Kearney, Unity Davis, and Jamari Moss.
Johnson will back up Harrison, while freshman Mia Fleming should also get some mound time.
“I think we’ll be pretty good this year,” Harrison said. “We’ve been working hard and putting in a lot of work, so I think we should have a good season this year.”
Moss expects Harrison and catcher Jamari Moss, Moss’s daughter and Harrison’s cousin, to pack some punch in the top half of the lineup.
“They have very strong bats,” he said. “We’re looking for them to do some damage.”
Herley Moss also cited shortstop Tajah Copper as an exciting player to keep an eye on for the Eagles, who start the season March 5 at home against Southern Nash.
The baseball team will start the season Monday at home against Southeast Halifax, one of 23 games on the ledger including a non-conference home-and-away matchup with Southeast Raleigh and the Princeton High Easter tournament. Warren County won’t have neighbor Vance County as a league rival this season, but will host the Vipers March 11.
The Eagles got two of their four wins last season against Vance County, but the win-loss column wasn’t reflective of how much they improved throughout the season under Short, who guided Louisburg’s team for 26 seasons until 2003.
“It took them a while to get adjusted to me,” said Short, “and it took me a while to get adjusted back to coaching.”
Some of the good news for Short is that he returns “a whole crowd” of players led by senior left-handed pitchers Kellen Tucker and James Hundley.
Tucker is also one of three returning players that hit better than .400 last season along with sophomore Christian Bartholomew and junior Semaj Alexander.
All play multiple positions including Tucker, who will occasionally be called on to catch despite being a lefty.
Prior to Monday’s practice, Short and Tucker heaped praise on Bartholomew, one of the most seasoned players on the team despite only one year of high school experience.
“That kid’s good,” Tucker said. “He plays travel ball a lot. Last year, he was doing all right. This year, he’s a sophomore, and I’d say he’s probably one of the best players on the team, no doubt.”
Short said juniors Spencer Napier and Ky-Jarvis Baskerville have also been hitting the ball well early in the season.
Offense, Short believes, shouldn’t be an issue for Warren County.
“My group is going to go as far as my pitching goes,” he said. “We can hit. We can score runs. I’m not worried about that part.”
Predicting success in terms of wins and losses can always be tricky, especially in a strong conference. Doubling, even tripling their number of wins from last season could be in reach.
But if the Eagles can crack the top four of the conference this season, their coach already knows the appropriate celebration.
“I’d dance a jig,” Short said.