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Two years young, but strong nonetheless.
The Catawba Valley Community College baseball team, only in its sophomore season, is having success beyond the wildest of imaginations.
When former Lenoir-Rhyne coach Frank Pait heard about the beginning of a baseball program at CVCC, he saw it as an opportunity to get back into coaching the sport he loves.
â€śThe program was the brain child of our president, Dr. Garrett Hinshaw, who played baseball at Appalachian State,â€ť Pait said. â€śHe and athletic director Jeff Moore wanted to start womenâ€™s basketball and menâ€™s baseball programs. Two or three days later, I met with the president, was approved and we were ready to go.â€ť
With a blank slate of roster spots, Pait immediately started working.
Pait brought 11 seasons of experience from Lenoir-Rhyne University, where he is the schoolâ€™s all-time winningest coach.
He won one South Atlantic Conference Tournament title and two SAC Tournament titles. In 2001, the Bears made NCAA Div. II playoffs.
Along with his experience at L-R, Pait also coached for three seasons at an assistant at Wingate University.
He says all of these experiences helped him develop the Bucsâ€™ baseball program.
â€śI have been in coaching for 18-19 years,â€ť Pait said. â€śI have coached in this area, both as a high school coach in Wilkesboro and a college coach at Lenoir-Rhyne. I used the contacts I had in the area from Western North Carolina coaches. I got on the phone, sent letters, sent emails and told coaches we were starting the program. The response was overwhelming.â€ť
Infielder Tripper Crisson, who was the first signee in CVCCâ€™s history, said playing for Pait was a dream of his.
â€śIt is an honor to be the first CVCC player now because weâ€™ve become a good program,â€ť Crisson said. â€śIn our second season, we became the No. 3 team in the nation. Nobody thought we could. It was an honor for me because I lived in Lincolnton and looked up to coach Pait when he was at L-R. I was ready to come to CVCC.â€ť
CVCC baseball team finished 31-20 in its first season under Pait.
The team also earned a berth in the Region 10 tournament in Martinsville, Va.
The Bucs were ranked as high as 14th in the NJCAA Div. II National poll.
â€śWe wanted to have that kind of success,â€ť Pait said. â€śThat was our dream. I had a three-year plan. I think weâ€™ve gotten better, and that is what we want to continue to do.â€ť
Crisson, a member of the CVCC baseball team for two seasons, says coming from winning high school programs helped drive the desire to win in a Bucsâ€™ uniform.
â€śThis team is a good group of guys,â€ť Crisson said. â€śWe all came from programs that love to win. All we do is try to win and work hard every day. Even though we are a new team, we donâ€™t think there is a team that we play against that we canâ€™t beat.â€ť
The Bucsâ€™ Tyler Deaton says familiarity with one another also helped to build a special chemistry.
â€śMost of us have played together most of our lives,â€ť said infielder Tyler Deaton. â€śFrom AAU, legion and high school baseball, weâ€™ve been around each other. It is not a new feeling for us. We know everybody and hang out with everybody. We just come together and play as a whole. I think we just hit our stride at the perfect time.â€ť
This season, the team is already 32-13 and are heading back to the Region 10 Tournament.
The Bucs topped their ranking in last yearâ€™s NJCAA poll by being ranked third in the first poll of the season.
â€śEvery day, you can make a new milestone as a team and individually,â€ť Crisson said. â€śYou have a chance to do something that hasnâ€™t been done. This year, we have the record for wins. It has been really fun.â€ť
Pait says the team is on track for even more success on the diamond.
â€śSo far, weâ€™ve exceeded our wins from last year,â€ť Pait said. â€śHopefully, we will exceed where we finish in conference and still go to regionals with a chance to win it.â€ť
Deaton has enjoyed his experience on the team.
â€śIt has been a good experience here at CVCC starting up the program,â€ť Deaton said. â€śThe records are being set every day. Starting off brand new with clean slate is pretty fun. You canâ€™t go wrong there.â€ť
The Bucs play their final three games of the regular season this weekend, but they already have their goals set toward the postseason.
â€śHopefully, we can end this season with a conference championship and go on to the World Series after regionals,â€ť Crisson said. â€śWe want to end the second season of CVCC baseball the right way.â€ťView more articles in: