Hanahan baseball starts season with solid defense and pitching potential
The Hanahan High School baseball team has proved to be one of the better programs in the Lowcountry, playing for a state championship in 2012 while continually finishing well above .500 while contending for region titles.
It should be more of the same for coach Brian Mitchell’s crew, who went 18-10 in 2014 and followed that up with a 16-9 record last spring after being eliminated by St. James in the district championship.
Mitchell might have felt a little blue at last year’s graduation ceremony as nine players walked across the stage, including the top three pitchers and the top two hitters.
Senior catcher Hunter Sutton led the team in batting with a .355 average, three homers and 23 RBI.
Malcolm Van Buren, the star of the show, now competes as a member of the North Carolina State Wolfpack baseball team.
His bat - and arm - will be missed. He batted .344 with 23 RBI, while collecting four triples, three home runs and 12 stolen bases.
He also was the ace of the staff with a 5-3 record with a 1.92 ERA in 47 innings pitched.
Jon Glee and Parker Futrell will also be missed.
Glee finished 6-1 with a 1.32 ERA over 42 1/3 innings. He struck out 27 batters. Futrell was 2-3 with two saves and a 2.80 ERA.
“On the mound, we are pretty young,” Mitchell said. “We have some promising arms, but they just don’t have that big game experience. We will see.”
Another key loss was outfielder Eric Gartman, who hit .247 with 23 runs scored, a team-high 15 walks and 11 stolen bases.
The Hawks return three starters in the infield: shortstop Tyler Futrell (.286, 10 runs), second baseman Brooks Cribb (.261) and third baseman Brendan Shaw (.190, 14 RBI, 15 runs).
Jackson Kackley will be the most experienced pitcher Mitchell is counting on. He was 1-1 with two saves and 19 strikeouts in his junior year. His fastball should register around 85 mph.
Another pitcher with promise is Austin Forbes. He averaged a strikeout per inning last spring.
The Hawks finished second in Region 8-AAA last spring and remain in Class AAA for the new five-classification realignment.
But the Hawks moved to Region 7-AAA with rival Bishop England, Lake Marion, Manning and Timberland.
“Bishop England has a solid program,” Mitchell said. “I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I don’t think our region has the depth we faced last year. Hilton Head, Beaufort and Berkeley were very tough, and a lot of the time, we had to play them in the same week, which was a challenge to our pitching staff. I don’t think we have that kind of depth this year in our region.”
Mitchell said the defense will suffice as the young pitchers gain experience this spring.
“We have the potential to be good,” Mitchell said. “We have solid defense and potential on the pitching staff. Of course, what it comes down to is making contact at the plate.”