North Myrtle BeachHigh School varsity baseball coach Brian Alderson is spending his February afternoons after classes at the Chiefs baseball field, going through the paces with his players before the start of the season on March 10.
Alderson begins his sixth year as head coach with a goal of getting further in 6AAAA play. “We were 21-8 last year but finished the year losing the district championship game for the third year in a row. We are trying to get over that hump. We had to go to Hilton Head last year and we had to beat them twice. We beat them 4-0 in the first game but everything we hit in game two was right at somebody and they made every play. Then we had a flat tire on the way back after losing and didn’t get back until 7 a.m.”
Alderson is working on building a team that will challenge once again the 6AAAA region title but also realizes the challenges he faces. “Position-player-wise we only return four starters and we graduated five of our top six hitters to college baseball. Pitching, we only lost one senior arm, Dalton Simpson, who did a lot of things for us last year. Our pitching staff should be okay. That’s how we are going to beat people this year, pitch and play defense, because we graduated our best hitters. We will have to keep other teams from scoring and scratch out a few runs and win some low-scoring baseball games,” Alderson said.
Alderson’s roster will include six seniors, six juniors and eight tenth graders. “Our JV team was 15-0 last year and most were freshmen, with the bulk of them on our varsity now. That tenth grade class will be good for us for years,”
As far as this year’s region teams Alderson stated that Hartsville will be a challenge. ”They will be good. They have that Pendergrass kid who has committed to South Carolina. He’s a junior outfielder who is one of the fastest kids I have seen on a baseball field. Their shortstop and third baseman will also be back and they will be good too.”
“Myrtle Beach will always be up at the top in our region. I don’t know exactly how everyone else will do but Darlington will be competitive because they have a right- handed pitcher who threw good against us. Wilson has gotten better. They are a scrappy team and if you don’t show up ready to play…well that’s the game of baseball. Funny game. The best team doesn’t always win. The team that plays the best usually wins. I’ve been good and lost to some bad teams and then really bad and beat some good teams,” Alderson said.
While the season starts in March and he doesn’t have the luxury of tune-up games, he was looking forward to a pre-season tournament in Charleston. “We have a tournament at Shipyard Park in Charleston February 28 – March 1. We open with Wando, a team with five or six college commits and that will be a good measuring stick to see where we are at. Then we play Ashley Ridge and James Island, all 5A schools. Sunday will be bracket play. Byrnes and Chapman, ranked number one in 3A, are also in the tournament. Good schools and a reason we are playing in that tournament.”
“We really want to win those games even though they really don’t count, but they really do count. They may not be region games but they help us see what we are made of. When you play good teams, good teams expose your weaknesses. I’d rather know early on the stuff we need to catch up on and get better, before we start region play. After the tournament we come home and don’t play again for a week and start region play at Marlboro County on March 10. Our first home game is Friday the 13th against Wilson, one of those teams that if you don’t play well they can beat you,” Alderson said.
Preseason rankings have placed the Chiefs at number three but Alderson is not a fan of the rankings. “Rankings should probably come out about halfway through the season. I think the ranking is based on the two ACC commits we have, Billy Barlow to Clemson and Cam Freeman to Georgia Tech. They both will pitch for us and will be a part of our lineup when not pitching but we have a long way to go before we are a top ten team,” Alderson said.
Summing up his team’s performance Alderson pointed to his pitching and defense. “We have several young arms that we are excited about. Our depth on the mound will be a plus. Defensively I think we will be pretty sound. Our strengths will be pitching and defense. We have to take it one game at a time. We have a good bunch of kids in our program and over the next few years we should be really competitive. I think our kids do everything we ask them to do and work extremely hard. It just depends on if we perform when the lights come on,” Alderson concluded.