The Bunker Hill baseball team is looking to build on the momentum of last season.
The Bears were 29-1 last year and won the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships. They won 29 straight games before losing in the third round of the playoffs.
Marty Curtis returns for his 28th season as Bunker Hill baseball coach and 39th season of coaching overall. He says that last season was his best ever at the helm of a team and credits that with a unique grouping.
“We had a rare combination that you don’t have many years,” Curtis said. “I had a group of kids that included two four-year starters and two three-year starters. There was experience, talent and depth. It was something that doesn’t come along too often.”
Jeremy Null, a pitcher and outfielder for the Bears, says the success his team had may be a once in a lifetime experience.
“Last season was something that will probably never happen again,” Null said. “I think we have the potential to accomplish our goals for this season, but winning 29 straight games is unheard of in baseball. Our goal is to leave last season in the past and try to defend our titles.”
The team lost nine seniors from last year’s team, including six starters. The biggest of those losses will be shortstop Cameron Beard, who hit .414 last season with 41 hits and 26 RBIs. His performance helped him earn CVAC Player of the Year and All-State accolades.
Replacing the losses on the team will be a cluster of talented seniors, who were part of a junior varsity squad that was 22-2 together.
“We are fortunate in the fact that we have seven seniors coming back,” Curtis said. “We had some talented kids last year, and since we had such a successful season, they got a lot of playing time. Some of them were part-time starters, as well.”
Leading the way will be Null, third basemen Cody Plemmons, shortstop Cole McGraw and first basemen Jacob Shepherd. All four players will also have pitching duties.
Null was dominant from the pitching mound in his junior season, as he had an 8-1 record. He also set three school records, including 114 strikeouts, six shutouts and a 0.24 ERA.
Shepherd and Plemmons also had pitching success last season. Shepherd threw two-no hitters, and Plemmons was 5-0 on the mound.
Joining them on the staff will be McGraw, who will serve this season in a relief pitching role.
“I feel like our strength this year will be our pitching,” Curtis said. “We have four of our top five pitchers back this year. Those guys are a year older. Certainly, it will be the focal point of our team right now.”
Offensively, McGraw will serve as a key weapon. He hit for a .450 average last season and will fill the spot that Beard voided at shortstop.
Null will be another key offensive piece. He led the team in home runs last season with seven and hit for a .412 average. He believes the team’s success this year will be based a lot on how they mentally prepare each game.
“We want to keep the same focus throughout the whole year,” Null said. “Hopefully, we can make a deeper run in the state playoffs this year.”
Curtis believes West Caldwell, Draughn, Bandys and South Iredell will be teams to watch out for, but he is hopeful of another great season.
“We think we are going to have a good baseball team,” Curtis said. “We hope to be able to compete for the CVAC championship. Our league is going to be much better this year. It will be a lot tougher. We hope that we can be in the mix at the end.”