Eagles 2023 baseball season comes to a close

Photo courtesy Alan Pennington

Eastern Alamance senior baseball standout Cole McGinnis finished the 2023 season leading the Eagles with a .317 batting average and five home runs. McGinnis is taking his talents to UNC-Asheville following his upcoming graduation from Eastern High School. 

By Adam Powell

Enterprise Staff Writer 

Eastern Alamance High’s 2023 spring varsity baseball season came to an end this past week, as the Eagles suffered a 6-1 setback to Central Conference rival Orange High 6-1 in Hillsborough on the evening of May 2. Orange, the regular season champions of the Central Conference, strung together two-run innings in the third, fourth, and sixth innings as they pulled away from the visiting Eagles. 

As the week wound on, the 22-2 Panthers, who went 10-2 in Central Conference regular season play this spring, defeated league rivals Cedar Ridge and Williams to win the Central Conference Tournament. OHS will surely earn a high playoff seeding, and is one of the favorites in the East Region of the upcoming NCHSAA 3A state playoffs. 

Eastern Alamance, on the other hand, will not be getting an invitation to the state playoffs this season. After going a disappointing 4-19 overall, including 1-11 in Central Conference play for a sixth place finish in the league standings, EAHS will miss the NCHSAA state playoffs for the first time following a full regular season since 2015. The Eagles also missed the postseason in the COVID-abbreviated 2021 season. 

The Eagles rallied in the top of the first inning against Orange starting pitcher Joey Pounds, as Gage Parson was hit by a pitch with one out, and Landon Linens followed with a double to center field. However, Pounds came through with a pair of strikeouts to end the threat. 

After failing to score despite getting two runners on in the bottom of the second, the Panthers finally broke through in the third inning against Eastern Alamance starter Cole McGinnis. Following a leadoff walk by Joey Berini, and then advancing to second base on a wild pitch, David Waitt singled up the middle into center field, which scored Berini for a 1-0 Orange lead. Cameron Guentensberger’s fielder’s choice three batters later brought home Waitt for what turned out to be the winning run. 

Eastern Alamance got its lone run in the top of the fourth, as Wesley Donoho led off with a single, and Triston Keck drew a walk. Donoho and Keck subsequently stole third and second base, respectively, and Donoho tried to score on a grounder to third base. But Orange’s Neo Best threw a strike to catcher Ryan Honeycutt, who successfully tagged Donoho out at the plate before he crossed. Despite the electrifying out at home plate, the Panthers couldn’t stop the Eagles from getting on the scoreboard, as Garret Cloutier lifted a fly ball into center field that scored Keck for a sacrifice fly, cutting Orange’s lead in half at 2-1. 

Orange added to its lead shortly thereafter, as Best singled to left field with one out against McGinnis, and subsequently scored after advancing to second on a fielder’s choice, stealing third base, and scoring on a passed ball. Berini then doubled deep to center field,  and Waitt followed with a ground ball that was misplayed by the Eagles, allowing the hustling Berini to score from second base. 

Leading 4-1, the Panthers added two key insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, as Berini and Waitt led off the inning with walks, and advanced to second and third base on a wild pitch. UNC-bound standout Ryan Hench followed by a hard grounder that was misplayed by the Eagles, allowing both Berini and Waitt to cross the plate for the game’s final two runs. The Eagles once again got two runners on in the top of the seventh, but the Panthers managed to hold off EAHS to take the game. 

Although it was a tough season on the diamond for the Eagles, there were plenty of bright spots over the course of the spring. Multi-talented senior Cole McGinnis served as the team’s leader, providing consistency at both pitcher and catcher, and serving as the team’s best hitter. McGinnis was the lone Eagle to hit .300 this spring, as he put together a .317 batting average with five home runs, six doubles, and eight RBIs. McGinnis will be taking his talents to UNC-Asheville later this year. 

Landon Linens and Payton Wright finished tied for the EAHS team lead with nine runs batted in, while Linens finished second on the Eagles roster with a .258 batting average. Linens also finished second on the Eagles, behind McGinnis, in runs (13) and hits (16), while leading the EAHS lineup in doubles (seven). 

Several young players, including multiple freshmen such as Zack Merchel, Jarrett Newell, and Tate Young, got significant playing time this spring for Eastern Alamance. Newell finished fourth on the EAHS roster this spring in hits (11) and runs batted in (seven), third in doubles (three), and was one of only two Eagles to record a triple this spring. Newell and Merchel also got action on the mound for the Eagles, and figure to only grow and develop in the coming years.