Richland Northeast baseball players had a busy time of it in February. In addition to getting ready for the 2009 season and regular schoolwork, many Cavaliers took part in community events.
Varsity players Jason Washburn, Travis Styron, Josh Landry and Michael Meir celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss on Feb. 28 by holding a reading session with children at a local Target store. Varsity players Ryan Mercer, Daniel Mercer, Domineke Albert and Meir helped distribute Girl Scout cookies in February. Junior varsity players teamed up with Rehobeth Baptist Church to pack and distribute bags of food for needy families, and also helped spruce up the grounds of the church. Varsity players will be working with the church on Saturday.
On the field, the Cavaliers won the BBWA Invitational championship at North Central. Mercer, the senior left-handed ace of the RNE pitching staff, went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two appearances on the mound in the preseason tournament. Mercer tossed four innings of shutout relief in the Cavaliers’ 11-8 win over Andrew Jackson in the first round, and then threw six innings of shutout ball in a starting role against AJ in the championship game. RNE prevailed 10-0 in the finale.
Kenny Upshaw swung a hot bat in the tournament, going 7-for-17 with six RBIs. He had solid support from Brett Fulmer (6-13, five RBIs), Landry (6-15, three RBIs) and Jason Mohn (4-11, four RBIs).
The Cavaliers welcome back five starters and seven lettermen from last season’s 17-7 team that shard first place in old Region 5-4A with Dutch Fork, Ridge View and Spring Valley. At the top of the list are Mercer, Upshaw and Fulmer, who are all in their third varsity seasons.
Mercer was 9-3 on the hill last season with a 1.40 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 70 innings of work, and hit .403 with 20 runs scored and 19 RBIs. Mercer is 17-5 with a 1.75 ERA and 120 strikeouts in two seasons on the hill, and sports a .370 career batting average with 40 runs scored and 32 RBI. When not pitching, the senior is the starter in center field.
Upshaw, a senior pitcher/first baseman, hopes to regain the form on the mound he showed as a sophomore when he went 4-1 with one save and a 2.24 ERA. Last season, he was 2-2 with one save and a high 5.13 ERA. He made a big jump offensively last season, batting .394 with 23 runs, 15 RBIs and 15 steals.
Fulmer, a junior shortstop/pitcher, is another three-year starter. Last season Fulmer was 3-2 with one save and a 2.89 ERA on the hit, and was productive with 13 runs, 16 RBIs and 13 walks despite a .232 batting average.
Sophomores Mohn and Albert are back at third base and catcher, respectively. Albert hit .364 with 25 runs, 20 RBIs and 17 steals last season, and sports a career .344 varsity batting mark with 42 runs, 31 RBIs and 28 steals.
Senior lettermen Travis Styron and Derek Frost man the corner outfield spots.
RNE is looking to challenge for a state playoff spot in new-look Region 5-4A this season.