By Mark Carpenter
It could only be described as a disappointing season for Coach Rob Meade and his North Adams Green Devils baseball squad, as they finished with 12 wins and 11 losses, coming off a 2015 where they won a sectional title. There is certainly no one to blame for the rough year for the devils, as it was one of those “lots of things went wrong” kind of year that culminated with injuries taking down two senior starters right at tournament time.
“I was pleased with the way we pitched all season,” said Coach Meade. “We just struggled all season to find a groove at the plate, hitting just over .260 as a team. We took a big hit with the season-ending injuries to Kenny Branch and Mikey Sheeley, however the guys we played in their place played well despite their inexperience.”
“We graduated eight seniors and it will be difficult to replace them.”
The injuries Coach Meade referred to were both unfortunate with Sheeley finally yielding to Tommy John surgery after numerous problems with his elbow and Branch’s injury was even more freakish, as the all-conference catcher suffered a fractured cheekbone when hit by a teammate’s swing during pre-game warm ups.
From the beginning, it was an up and down year for Meade’s troops, as they won their first three contests before dropping Southern Hills Athletic Conference games to Eastern and Fayetteville. North Adams rebounded to defeat West Union twice and Whiteoak, before losing back to back games to the Fairfield Lions.
The Green Devils then lost three of their next five, including an 8-1 loss to Peebles, then won two in a row, then lost to Lynchburg, before falling to Rock Hill and Huntington in a Wooden Bat Tournament in Portsmouth.
Tournament play came next and without Sheeley and Branch and with the game being moved from Seaman because of the weather, Coach Meade was naturally apprehensive going in.
“Due to circumstances out of our control, I was a bit worried going into the game with Piketon,” said Meade. “Knowing that we had to replace our three and four hitters in the lineup was going to be tough. On top of that, having to load the bus and travel to Piketon as opposed to playing at home was not the best of circumstances.”
Meade’s fears were put to rest though as his son Trey pitched a complete game, allowing just two runs, and some youngsters such as Bryant Lung, Elijah Young, Colt Shumaker, and Austin Parks stepped up their game as the Devils took a 5-2 win in their tourney opener.
“Colt has come up big for us defensively in the outfield and Elijah has been very solid at shortstop and made a couple of exceptional plays today,” said the North Adams head coach. Bryant did a nice job behind the plate as well as getting three hits and driving home a pair.”
The win took the Devils to a sectional final contest, but against a very solid Adena team. North Adams mustered just four hits in the game and went down to defeat 12-1 in five innings to end their tournament run. The Devils then had to finish up their regular season after the tournament loss and they were blanked by Fayetteville 5-0 on May 16 to close out a 12-11 campaign.
As Coach Meade mentioned earlier, the Devils bid farewell to eight seniors-Mikey Sheeley, Kenny Branch, Justin Hilderbrand, Avery Lucas, Austin Copas, Cole Meade, Trey Meade, and Cole Roades, but will have a young nucleus of talent returning as the program had the luxury of fielding a JV squad this spring.
Sheeley and Branch were the team’s top hitters for the year, with Sheeley hitting .345 and Branch raking at a .327 clip. Sheeley led the team in runs batted in with 17, while Ben Figgins, Branch, Sheeley, and Trey Meade all tied for the team lead in extra base hits.
As far as pitching goes, Trey Meade led the team with five wins and a 2.25 earned run average, striking out 65 batters in 46.2 innings of work. Right hander Austin Copas was 3-2 with a 3.97 ERA as the Devils used 11 different pitchers during the 2016 season. The pitching staff combined to post a 2.90 team ERA.