Faith Christian baseball tasked with following up last season's magic


Sports Writer

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Faith Christian’s team from last season, “a once-in-a-lifetime group of kids,” as coach Greg Clifton said, went 24-1, captured the school’s first state title and sent three players off to college, one of them -- Landen Roupp -- to Division I UNC-Wilmington, where he was named the conference’s rookie of the week last week.

So, the supremely unfair question for this upcoming season is this—how do the 2018 Patriots follow that up?

The answer will take a little bit of time to figure out.

“Not sure the kids know how to handle it, along with me. It’s new for me, too,” Clifton, entering his seventh year with FCS and first in defense of a title, said on Wednesday. “It’s been different. We’ve got the guys to be pretty good again. Obviously you can’t replace the guys we had last year, but we do have some talent. It depends on how bad these guys want it.”

With its core of five seniors last season, the Patriots won their final 21 games, including a sweep of the state title series against Northside Christian Academy. They’ve so far been able to keep that magic going in this young season, winning their first two games against Village Christian Academy, 12-3, and Harrells Christian Academy, 7-4.

The schedule continues Thursday at 4 p.m., at home against Kinston Arendell Parrott Academy in the first round of the Patriot Invitational tournament.

“I think as the season goes along, these guys will figure it out. They’ll prepare like they need to prepare to have the season like we expect,” Clifton said.

“I don’t know if these guys, at this point, know what goes into having a year like last year. We’re junior heavy, but we have some guys that didn’t play a lot last season. In a way we’re still inexperienced.”

Indeed, the Patriots this year have nine juniors listed on the roster, compared to two seniors, two sophomores and a freshman.

Among the faces expected to fill the shoes of last year’s are Eli Ess, one of the two seniors, Alex Crosby, who started the first game of the season on the mound, and Trysten Edwards, among others.

For those three, and the rest of the Patriots this season, a tall task lays ahead. So far it’s helped to have the graduated players from last year’s team around.

“All the guys have been back, just to come and hang out,” Clifton said. “One thing we really like and preach, is that when these guys graduate they’re always welcome. It’s good to see those guys around and know they still want to be a part of this.”