Seeking a three-peat

Warriors have a lot returning in 2014
Jun. 15, 2013 @ 10:49 AM

They’ve moved on now, wrapping up another school year, watching some of their teammates graduate and starting summer baseball.

But it doesn’t take much to bring Weddington rising seniors Jeff Welch and Daniel Calabretta back to Greensboro, where they were among the Warriors to lead the program to its second consecutive 3A state championship.

The Warriors made history with the win, becoming the first baseball program in Union County history to win back-to-back state titles.

The thrilling 17-14, Game 3 win over Greenville Conley — one that went deep into the night and ended in a Weddington dog pile — was more than two weeks ago. For these players, it’s been a delicate balance of moving forward into 2013-14 and sitting back and allowing the memories to rush forward.

“It probably won’t sink in for me until the ring ceremony,” Calabretta said of the event that will likely be held in August, during Weddington’s home-opening football game. “You just get so busy. When I sit down and think about it, it hits me. But it’s still pretty surreal.”

Calabretta, a Duke commit, was the MVP of the championship series. In the deciding game, he went 4-for-4, hitting for the cycle, reaching base in all six at-bats and scoring four runs.

The leadoff batter and shortstop was at East Carolina over the weekend for a summer league tournament. He’s continuing to polish his skills, to log innings and take swings, as a larger goal looms.

Calabretta and Welch have two state championship rings. Now they’re part of a small, select group of players going for a three-peat next season.

“That’s obviously going to be something even crazier than going back-to-back,” Welch said. “I think we can do it. We have the talent. We have a hard-working team, a great coach. We’re going to just go about our business.

“I’ve been talking with some of the other guys since the season ended, and we’re really excited about this.”

The excitement stems from the arms Weddington has coming back. The Warriors persevered with their three top arms — Clemson signee Alex Bostic, UNC Charlotte signee Jeremy Schellhorn and Virginia commit Sean Collins — sidelined at various instances with injuries. Bostic and Schellhorn, the projected ace and closer, each pitched in only a handful of games.

Collins, though, missed time during the middle of the season, but got healthy for the postseason. He became the ace, and No. 2 guy Landon Kay helped pack a formidable punch.

Both starters return, and pitchers who logged more innings than expected due to the team’s injuries — guys such as Paul Brocklebank and Cameron Smetak — will take on increased roles.

“Having our top three pitchers being out for almost the whole season, we just all had to rally around them,” Welch said. “We knew we had some other talent on the team, and we knew that we could make a run. There’s a lot of underclassmen that we relied on and we’re all excited about coming back.”

Both of Weddington’s state titles came at the conclusion of a season in which the Warriors did not win their conference title.

The Southern Carolina 3A/4A split league produced some outstanding baseball teams the past four years. Weddington’s new league will be even tougher with the addition of Piedmont and Cuthbertson.

Both of those Union County schools are stocked with talent, and Piedmont not only beat Weddington as a 2A team in 2013, the Panthers went on to win 30 games and the 2A state championship.

And of course, Marvin Ridge — the team that did win the league title the past two seasons — is in the Warriors’ conference, and returns a loaded lineup.

“It’s going to be a tough conference,” Calabretta said. “We’ll have two state champions in that one conference, and of course Marvin Ridge is always good. It’s going to be difficult. But if we have everyone just do their job, and us juniors step up as leaders, then we’ll have a chance.”