ROCKINGHAM — Experts believe if a baseball team is strong up the middle, it will have a good season.
Richmond Senior will be searching for its starting four in the heart of its defense this spring after losing its starters to graduation.
Catcher Dylan Carpenter replaced an injured Noah Stubbs in the middle of the Southeastern Conference season. Carpenter will attend Methodist this fall.
Stubbs suffered a broken hand against Purnell Swett and was sidelined the remainder of the high school season. Stubbs returned to action Wednesday night in a summer league contest and doubled in his first at-bat.
Chase Haywood will move over from left field to center for Montek Johnson. Johnson will play football at Guilford College. Haywood started the season batting second, but moved into the lead-off spot in the middle of the year.
While those two spots are seemingly locked down for Richmond coach Ricky Young, shortstop and second base are another story right now. Cody Leviner and Cody Mullen saw action at shortstop last season for the Raiders and Dylan Callahan earned all-conference honors at second.
In Wednesday’s contest with the team from Southern Lee, Young started Myles Rohleder at shortstop and Nick Honeycutt at second. In the final innings, Drew Lovin replaced Rohleder at short and Justin Ingram took over for Honeycutt at second.
“I think they have done a really good job. The guys we got there now, they’re really coachable,” Young said. “I think the summer is going to be a good experience for them. They’ve played really well up the middle. We feel comfortable defensively with all of them there. I think whoever swings the bat best is probably going to play.
“They’re really good kids, they’re very coachable, they’ll work hard. I got a lot of confidence in all of them. I think they will do what they have to do to get better.”
Ever since coming to Richmond, Young has been a strong proponent for the summer league season. He believes it gives his older players a chance to work on some things for the next season. For the young players, like the quartet looking to earn starting spots at shortstop and second base, it allows them to get varsity experience without the pressure of a regular-season game.
“I think this is very important. You can practice all day long, but there’s nothing like game experience,” Young said. “Things move a little faster in a game. I love this summer program, I think it’s very important to the success of our program. Obviously we would like to win, but we are playing to get everybody experience and put them in situations and see how they handle them.”
Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.