It is still winter on the calendar, but the spring season is scheduled to open up this weekend for the Virginia-Wise baseball and softball teams.
The Cavalier baseball squad, originally scheduled to open its season Saturday, will now see its first action of the season Sunday at noon during a doubleheader at Paine College in Augusta, Ga. The Cavs will conclude the three-game series with a single nine-inning game Monday at Paine.
Hank Banner, the senior statesman of UVA Wise coaches, enters his 24th season at the helm of the Cavaliers’ NCAA Division II baseball program after guiding the team to a 26-27 mark last spring.
This year, Banner leads one of his most experienced squads as UVA Wise begins play in the South Atlantic Conference.
The Cavaliers return nine seniors and six juniors, including senior catcher Tyler Blaum, a first-team preseason SAC pick this year. Last year, Blaum finished with a .357 batting average, four home runs and 29 RBIs.
The roster also includes preseason second-team SAC pick Greg Duncan, a senior pitcher who finished last year with a 3.24 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 21 walks.
Duncan enters the season 45 strikeouts shy of becoming just the third pitcher in the program’s history to register 200 career strikeouts.
Senior right-hander Nate Thompson (Wise Central) returns for his final season on the mound.
Redshirt senior Dylan Luttrell will give leadership to the bullpen staff.
Other hurlers for UVA Wise include juniors Jimmy Vanosdale, Jake Osburn, Will Stamper (Lebanon) and Anthony Wertz; sophomores Ethan Fletcher, Devin Mathis, Jeremiah Ball (Dobyns-Bennett), Tyler Hayes and Garrett Stiltner (Science Hill); and freshmen Zack James (Wise Central) and Shawn Campbell.
Around the infield, Tristan Peccerelli and Dawson Cagle will share time at third base, as well as at designated hitter.
Three-year starter Jordan Turner is back at shortstop, with sophomore Isaac Whitehead (Dobyns-Bennett) providing depth at the position.
Look for redshirt sophomore Bret Roberts to man the post at second base.
At first base, three names emerge, including senior Matthew Branham (J.I. Burton), Tyler Horvath and Tyler Campbell.
With so much depth at first, Branham and Horvath can both play in the outfield.
Gabe Wurtz, a redshirt senior and transfer from West Georgia, is slated to begin the season in center field, while Fletcher — who can also provide relief pitching — is the likely candidate for left field.
CAVS OPEN SOFTBALL SEASON SUNDAY
The Virginia-Wise softball team is scheduled to open its season Sunday in a doubleheader just south of Richmond against Virginia State.
The Cavaliers finished 22-27 last season, its last as a member of the Mountain East Conference. In its first year in the SAC, UVA Wise co-coaches Nick and Karen Bitter return a team with plenty of experience in the infield.
Senior Julia Hoy is back at first base after smacking six home runs and 19 RBIs. Also returning are shortstop Nikki Smith and junior Kaylee Jones (Eastside). Jones will move to third base after recording a .305 batting average with nine homers and 31 RBIs.
Utility infielder Casey Chambers gets the nod at second base.
In the outfield, junior Alexis Miles will serve as the anchor after a solid sophomore year that included .310 batting average with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs.
Taylor Woodlief (Lebanon) looks to start in left field, while Kailey Huffman gets the early nod in right field.
The UVA Wise pitching unit includes Kailyn Spencer, who finished 10-9 with a 3.25 ERA last season; Raychell Lapallo, who finished 9-12 with a 4.35 ERA; Sophomore Sydney Collins, who finished 3-4 with a 5.12 ERA; and freshman Mckenna Falwell.
BASKETBALL TOP SIX
Gate City’s boys and Abingdon’s girls continue to hold the top spots in this week’s Basketball Top Six polls.
The Top 6 boys and girls teams are selected by a panel of voters and are based on a points system of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Listed are the ranking, school, last week’s ranking, record and total points received this week.
BOYS TOP SIX
1) Gate City (1) 12-4 (114)
2) Wise Central (2) 13-5 (88)
3) Grundy (3) 13-1 (61)
4) Union (5) 11-6 (53)
5) Abingdon (4) 9-7 (36)
6) Lee High (6) 10-6 (23)
Others receiving votes: J.I. Burton (13), Eastside (8), Graham (5).
GIRLS TOP SIX
1) Abingdon (1) 17-1 (114)
2) Ridgeview (2) 13-4 (94)
3) Union (5) 12-5 (55)
4) Gate City (3) 9-8 (41)
5) Patrick Henry (4) 14-2 (38)
6) Honaker (6) 15-5 (28)
Others receiving votes: Eastside (22), Thomas Walker (8), Lebanon (1).