Athens Drive High School Baseball: Jags 2006 Season

Thursday, June 15


In the words of Charles Dickens, "It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons." Jag followers knew that with our entrance into the Tri 7 Conference and the graduation of a half-dozen starters, 2006 was going to be a challenge. But no one could have anticipated just how challenging the challenge would be.

The Jags knew they'd be in the hunt. They had two of the best starters in the metro area with Daniel Ottone and Vance Williams. But that strength soon became the Jags biggest weakness. Before the season even started, lefty Ben Weadon found out that pitching wasn't going to be part of his baseball portfolio any more. Ottone came up hurting in the third inning of his first start and didn't pitch an inning for the rest of the season. Williams looked superb in his first conference start, one-hitting Fuquay Varina but his arm was strangely sore afterward.

Although he tried to come back against Apex in the very next conference game, after just two innings it was obvious Vance wasn't himself. A growth plate injury forced him out for the season. Both pitchers have fully recovered and Daniel will toil on the mound for the Apex Legion team while Vance will be pitching for the Impact summer travel team.

But the trials were just beginning. The injury jinx struck again when Rhett Miller pulled up limping just running the bases. And starting left fielder Tyler Eshraghi added to the chaos when he injured a leg chasing down a fly ball. Both would come back but Rhett fought the recurring muscle pull all year.

The struggles showed on the faces of Coach Bell and Coach Miller as they patched the lineup from game to game looking for a combination that would get them a win or two.

But where there is a need there is also opportunity and gradually, sophomore Travis Lush, freshman Ross Snotherly, senior Michael Schmidt and junior Brad Moore stepped up to turn the pitching around. A few tough wins against eventual, conference co-champ Apex and 5th ranked Durham Riverside and the mood was noticeably more upbeat. Once the baseball corner was turned the team began to get downright dangerous and only a late rally by Apex kept the Jags from advancing in the Conference Playoffs.

Yes, it was a tough season for a team used to making its way to the State Tournament in 10 of the last dozen years. But when Sheila Schmidt closed the concession stand for the last time this season, 2007 was looking pretty good.

Of course, the team will have to replace Daniel Ottone's huge presence at the plate and superb pitching record. And we may not see those massive home runs for awhile. Someone will have to step up and take over at shortstop where Zach Huttie played every inning of every game, led the team in hits and RBIs and made five errors on the year. Centerfield probably won't be the same for awhile without Rhett Miller. But then, replacing 6.6 sixty speed and a leadoff hitter that registered a .545 batting average for the year is never easy. And someone will have to step up in left field just like Tyler Eshraghi who showed great speed to match Rhett's and provided some big hits as he pushed his average over the .300 mark for the season. We can count on someone who hasn't pitched much at all in high school to suddenly emerge just like Michael Schmidt whose outing in the Bobby Murray and late season starts and relief appearances were impressive for a pitcher who was learning on the fly. And a DH capable of matching Ben Weadon's clutch hitting the last two weeks of the season will have to come from somewhere. It's doubtful that anyone will match his clever onfield banter for quite some time.

But the signs are there. Travis Lush's big games against Durham Riverside, Apex and Fuquay show he has arrived. Ross Snotherly's 2 home runs and solid pitching are signs of what's to come. And who is going to hit the Brad Moore curve ball. No one did in 2006 as the Jag's closer gave up just one run on the season. Combine all that with D1 prospect Vance Williams hurling bullets and the pitching is as formidable as it gets in the Tri 7.

Then of course, Matt Paske's experience behind the plate has readied him for the demands of catching in such a challenging conference. Lucas Gentry will bring some versatility to the field and a quick bat while Patrick Johnson is certain to bring speed and experience to the outfield. Steve DeMeo and Tim Moore should generate enough power to help make us forget Ottone. And Michael Kelly will give the Jags another solid catcher with a lively bat.

The future looks bright indeed and the challenges of 2006 are certain to lead to successes in 2007.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge some major accomplishments for the year.

>First, in a stunning show of intellectual prowess, all 16 members of the Jag baseball team received Academic All Conference honors.
>Rhett Miller was named the team's Most Valuable Player and All-Conference.
>Daniel Ottone was a Coach's Award winner and named All-Conference.
>Zach Huttie was named to the Bobby Murray All Tournament Team, the All-Conference Team and received a Coach's Award.
>Congrats also to Justin Booth who received the Junior Varsity Coach's Award.

Sure, it has been a long season at times and we certainly saw more than our share of challenges. But in the challenges of 2006 are certain to be the rewards of 2007!

Have a great "SUMMER SEASON" with Apex Legion and West Raleigh Junior Legion.

Some Senior Notes.

>Tyler Eshraghi, Rhett Miller, Michael Schmidt, Zach Huttie and Ben Weadon all played Little League and Junior League in the West Raleigh League.

>Ottone, Weadon, Huttie and Miller were all starters on the West Raleigh 10-year old all-star team that won the North Carolina Tarheel Little League State Championship. The same four played on West Raleigh's 14-year old all stars that also won the state championship.

>Eshraghi and Schmidt will both study engineering and attend North Carolina State in the Fall.

>Ottone will attend Western Carolina and play baseball or enroll as a regular student at State.

>Huttie will enroll and play baseball at Denison University in Ohio.

>Miller will decide between South Carolina or UNC Wilmington and will also play baseball.

>Thanks to Head Coach Joey Bell and Assistant Coach Kevin Miller for a great effort in what was, at times, a trying season.

>Finally, a very special thanks to Sheila Schmidt who has been a den mother to the baseball team for the last half-dozen seasons;
Susan Williams who along with husband/ photographer Phil always makes Senior Day so special;
Nanette Weadon who has always done the small stuff quietly and husband Mark who has been grounds keeper extraordinaire the past two seasons;
Wayne Moore and his effort to get the batting cage built;
Lonnie Sroka who has been instrumental in raising money and getting so many of our field improvements accomplished;
and Gary and Susan Gentry for their tireless commitment to the Jag Club.

Congratulations Athens Drive Seniors!