Undefeated start is a promising sign for Cape Fear baseball

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Jarrod Britt had just begun his first season as Cape Fear’s new baseball coach when the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down this time last year.

A year later, he’s finally back, and things are still looking positive for the Colts.

So far, they’re 4-0 in a season that will be cut short by the ongoing pandemic since three schools in the Patriot Athletic Conference, Douglas Byrd, E.E. Smith and Westover, won’t be fielding teams this year. 

But in spite of the negatives, the Colts have made an impression on baseball coaches statewide. The Prep Baseball Report came out – with rankings based on voting by coaches this week – and Cape Fear earned the No. 10 spot in the Class 3-A poll.

Britt says he pays little attention to that kind of recognition largely because he feels like he’s starting over after more than a year away from normal contact with his players.

“All the baseball coaches I’ve talked to are feeling the same way,’’ he said. “They’ve never had this short a time period to prepare. It’s weird.’’

The NCHSAA allowed normal preseason baseball workouts to begin on April 12, just two weeks before the date for the first scheduled games.

Britt gave his players, especially his pitchers, a schedule for off-season work on their own so they wouldn’t arrive at practice cold. Still, he focused on getting bullpen sessions in with his pitchers at the start to boost their pitch counts.

“You have to have a deep staff to get through the season,’’ he said. “You want to try to prevent as many arm injuries as you can. You don’t want to overthrow guys.’’

One big advantage Britt has this season is experience, as his team has 10 seniors on the current 15-man roster.

Leading the way on the mound is veteran pitcher Kyle Molivas, who has a 1-0 record and a 1.40 earned run average. “He’s done really well and stayed in the zone,’’ Britt said.

Shortstop Zach Smith is a steady player who is fluid, makes plays in the field and finds ways to get on base.

One of the most important players in the lineup is catcher J.J. Alphin. Britt said he has so much confidence in Alphin he’s delegated the task of calling pitches to him. “I trust him 100 percent,’’ Britt said.

Alphin said he stayed in baseball shape during the downtime by working out at home as well as going to the ballpark at Eastover to throw and hit with some of his teammates.

“I think everybody needs to stay healthy,’’ he said. “We can’t be having injuries. We’re working on hitting and getting the bats going.

“We are a very good team, but we can get better.’’

Britt agreed, repeating a major concern he’s heard from coaches in a variety of sports who’ve welcomed athletes back after a long layoff from their game. He said they’ve all told him the limited preseason workouts caused their teams to perform sloppier than they ever have.

“We’ve got to clean that stuff up,’’ he said. “If we take care of business on our end and focus on beating the game, we’ll have success.

“I’m looking for our guys to continue this energy and focus they’ve had so far.’’