Cougars On Prowl in MAC Baseball - TribPapers
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Cougars On Prowl in MAC Baseball

Cougars congratulating tallest teammate Larson Scholtz for his homer are, L-R: Kyle Moshier, Eric Krumpe (10), Alex Frank (31), Isiah Mingus (11), (Scholtz), Jay Secretarski (6), Connor Hillier (2), Khalil Conley (1), with Bo Trantham (27) at far right. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

AshevilleAsheville and T.C. Roberson are galloping in front of the Buncombe County pack in high school baseball with an impressive blend of hitting, pitching, base running and defense.

Roberson (9-2; 6-0 MAC) and Asheville (10-1; 4-0) are both unbeaten atop the Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC).

Erwin (7-3) is third at 3-3. Next, at 2-4, are Enka (5-5) and North Buncombe (3-9). McDowell (6-5; 1-3) and A.C. Reynolds (5-6; 0-4) have more ground to make up. This is a very rare time when ACR lags behind. Usually the Rockets are MAC title contenders along with TCR and AHS.

Cougar Clout

Asheville typically relies on pitching and defense with timely hitting. But these Cougars are also “batting more consistently” well and thus winning by larger margins, head coach Bill Hillier said. He adopted the “All Gas, No Brakes” motto of AHS basketball — to keep pouring on effort on the diamond as well. He said the lineup is “stronger top to bottom” than on recent AHS squads. That makes it easier to sustain long rallies.

The Cougars keeping hitting to put away foes early and often. For instance, they beat NBHS 10-0 on the ten-run slaughter rule at home March 25. “It’s great to win” by such large margins, catcher Connor Hillier said.

Asheville got halfway to that ten-run margin right away — by scoring five runs in the bottom of the first inning. “We came out swinging!” Eric Krumpe said. “We all can make the big hit.” They did.

Lethal Lineup

Larson Scholtz crunched a two-run home run deep to left field in the first inning. The ball is rumored to still be orbiting toward the Space Station. Scholtz said he enjoyed helping “give us energy” to mount a rally, with his blast. Scholtz at six-foot, six inches tall. The senior cleanup hitter both looks and acts as the most imposing Cougar batter. He later hit a sacrifice fly, for his third RBI.

Many other Cougars got in on the offensive fireworks on that chilly afternoon. Khalil Conley, the swift football quarterback, led off the five-run inning with a triple. He scored the first run on Hillier’s groundout. As he noted, he “set the tone” for the big rally and “we got on top early.”

Kyle Moshier made the first of his three hits. He scored on the Scholtz dinger. Krumpe doubled and after an out, Bo Trantham doubled him in. Trantham scored the fifth run, after an errant NBHS throw got past first base. Trantham later beat out an infield hit. Krumpe had two of the ten AHS hits and a walk, in three at-bats.

AHS scored three more in the second inning, starting with a run on Moshier’s RBI double. Krumpe singled in Mosier for the ninth run, in the fourth. The tenth run scored on a wild pitch.

Cougars said they enjoy playing defense on their newly-renovated home field. The artificial turf looks snazzy with a copper-colored section around the bases, going from the infield into the shallow outfield.

Cleanup slugger Larson Scholtz (24) watches his towering home run launch toward Mars. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Pitchers Healing

Crafty senior lefty Trantham hurled a two-hitter, into the top of the fifth and final frame. He was lifted upon reaching his strict 75 pitch limit. Hard-throwing Davis Hayes got the final out, to notch the slaughter shutout. This was Hayes’ first appearance of the season, after healing from an injury. Scholtz bats but skipped pitching recently to get over his sore forearm, Coach Hillier. “Once we get more fully healthy, we’ll do even better.”

The young Cougars’ three seniors are Scholtz, Trantham and Amrit Brown.

They won won 13-0 at NBHS three days earlier, and beat Enka 9-0 then 8-0. AHS hosted Erwin Tuesday, and plays at EHS Thursday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m. The next Cougar home game is April 22 at 5 p.m., versus Reynolds. Asheville closes the regular season in a showdown versus Roberson. AHS welcomes the Rams May 3, then plays in Skyland May 6.

Ram, Warrior Tough

Roberson is having another tremendous season with all-around skill. The Rams doubled up third place Erwin 16-8 on March 29, then beat the Warriors 8-3 at home on April Fool’s Day. TCR’s next home games are April 19 against McDowell, and April 28 versus Reynolds also at 6:30 p.m.

The Rams feature reigning MAC Player of the Year Ben Hemphill and three juniors — shortstop Nick Parham, Tyler Kytta and Nick Moses. Parham sets the table atop the lineup. TCR welcomes McDowell on April 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Erwin swept Reynolds 6-1 and 7-3 two weeks ago, to shape the WAC race.

Erwin typically bats three lefties in a row. Leading EHS batters are freshman Carson Wallace at .607; sophomores Mason Coren (.462), Rex Miller (.381) and Nick Schultz (.379); seniors Dylan Davidson (.357) and Brayden Honeycutt (.333), and junior Alex Nunez (.333). Lefty Davidson and Coren pitch.

Reynolds is led by seniors Carter Buckner (.346) and Blake Stotesbury (.343) who both also pitch, Cade Gardner (.333), Bryson Andrews (.300) and Korbin Jackson (.300). ACR hosts NBHS on Friday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Enka standouts include senior Alex Puryear and brothers Anders and Cole Hegedus. The Jets welcome McDowell April 7 at 6:30 p.m.

North Buncombe’s Reagan Smith is batting .351, senior twins Garrett McCurry .361 and Grayson McCurry 316, and Marley Riddle .290. The Hawks host Enka on April 22 at 7 p.m.

Buncombe’s 2A school, Owen (1-7; 1-4 WHC), won 9-4 over Rosman March 29. The Warhorses host Avery April 5 at 4 p.m., then on April 8 play at league co-leader Madison (5-7; 4-0).

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