By CHARLES PASCHAL
Record Sports Writer
There simply are not enough Mike Martin to go around.
Area coaches contacted about high school baseball prospect were in agreement of one fact, which almost seems to pivotal in prep baseball, the importance of good pitching.
Because of Martin, Olympia is expected to dominate baseball in this area, while Orangeburg is rated a strong Region IV contender on the strength of hurler John Brown.
Very few of the coaches were optimist about mound staffs, although Chapin Coach Pickens Riser cited a weakness at the plate at his team’s key problem.
Olympia Coach Bobby Giles, whose team was eliminated in the first round of the state AA playoffs last year, possesses Martin – which draws the envy of everyone else.
Martin, a rapid lefthander with all of the necessary tools, will without a doubt be a first round draft choice this summer of a major league team. He is one of the most sought-after pitchers in the nation.
But, in spite of Martin, Olympia has problems of its own.
“So far, it looks like we’ll be lacking two or three hitters,” Giles said, “but the number one problem will be keeping healthy. We have nine who can play, but if we lose one, we’ll be in trouble.”
Mike McLaughlin, who has caught Martin since the two were in little league together, is currently bothered by a bad case of athlete’s foot. In a regular season game with Cardinal-Newman Friday, McLaughlin was hobbled, and withdrawn in the late innings.
“McLaughlin is the other half of Mike,” Giles said, “and his loss will hurt Mike.” They’ve been together for a long time, and know each other well. McLaughlin is one of the better catchers around.”
Ronnie Caulder, who led the Red Devils at the plate last season with a lusty .350 average, returns to the fold for the Devils. Caulder recently hurled a victory over Hopkins, walking only one man. Giles plans to use Caulder on the mound much this season.
Other players Giles expects to be outstanding are Alan Clamp at third ; Mark Giles at shortstop: Glenn Giles as a hitter, who plays first base Frankie Cook at second; Keith Johnson in the infield; A. J. Sexton in the outfield and Jerry Kirkland on the mound.
Many area coaches expect Brookland-Cayce’s Bearcats to be the area’s top threat, but Coach Bettis Herlong is not so sure of the favorite’s role.
Herlong was thrust into the baseball job when a coach expected to handle the sports departed from BC in the middle of the basketball season.
“I think because of tradition, Greenwood will be good in Region I,” Herlong said.
“Airport will also be good. Earl Bass is one of the outstanding pitchers in the area, and you know how important pitching is in high school baseball.
“We’ll be just as good as our pitching. Defensively, I think we’ll be good, but our pitching has not come around as yet. We’ll have to wait and see about our pitching before we can challenge for any championships.”
The Bearcats boast some strong individuals. Randy Stewart is probably on e of the best defensive catchers in the state, while Thad Rowe led his legion team in hitting last season. Terry Harper is also one of the better outfielders in the area.
“We have three or four colt league boys, such as Stump Gaddy and Ken Shull, Who may help us out this year,” Herlong said, “but I haven’t had enough time with the team yet to learn a great deal.”
Eau Claire Coach Les Evans, whose Shamrocks were predicted to be one of the better teams in the area, suffered the double blow of losing pitchers Chuck Swindler and David Durham to academics.
“The key to high school baseball is pitching,” Evans said, “and it will be the deciding factor for us how our other boys, Ricky Crout, Tom Boozer and Darrell Sipes, respond.
“At second, we have All Area selection Cliff Ott, which should make that position sound. We’ll be a good defensive team, and fair offensively. I think Orangeburg, Dreher and Dentsville will be the teams to watch.”
Evans pointed cut that Ott, David Bundrick, Bobby Johnson and James Ray were expected to be Shamrock leaders. “I foresee a tight race,” Evans said. “I think Region IV has a lot more balance this year, with a number of teams capable of winning the league.”
Dreher defending State 4-AAAA champion, draws the favorite’s nod of many again this year, but Coach Bill Knight doesn’t agree.
“We lost seven boys, five of them starters,” Knight said. “If we can get real good pitching, we might be a threat. But, we lost Jeff Butts, which makes pitching a big question mark.
“David Young is back, as is Bobby Graham, but it all boils down to how well we perform on the mound. We have several players out with injuries, which makes our job even rougher.”
Mike DuBard returns at catcher for the Blue Devils, while third baseman Billy Moore also returns. Rudy Walters, regular outfielder, is out with a knee injury at present.
Coach Richard Grich at Dentsville is uncertain about his team’s chances, even through he returns a full squad.
“I’ve had these kids since they were ninth graders,” Grich said. “The first year we were 9-7. Last year, they were 9-8, so I just don’t know what to expect.
“We don’t have a home field, so this hurts. Actually, we play our entire schedule on the road. Orangeburg and Dreher are going to be trouble. I’m sure they’ll be saving Young for the region games.
“Our hitting is weak. Lance (Neal) can do a good job for us on the mound. He has the potential. I’m also counting on Pat Lassonde for a good pitching job. Wayne Driggers, who hit .280 last year, led us in hitting. We’re just going to have to see what happens.”
Down at Chapin, Coach Riser feels St. Angelia will be his team’s chief threat to a conference championship. Only one other team, Blaney, will compete in Conference 3-A.
“We’ve had only one week’s practice, but hitting is our weak point,” Riswer said. “Our defense and pitching is fine, but we’re going to need to hit well to challenge.
“I predict a tight race between us and St. Angelia for the title, although Blaney might challenge because I’m not sure of what they have. I think both of us have improved.”
Riser will depend on Leland Teal and Steve Commalander to share the pitching duties, with Marty Woolbright and Commalander the team’s two leading hitters. Both hit .450 last year.