Warriors baseball program readies players for success at all levels

Head Coach Tim Haynes has the full attention of the Matoaca Warriors for the duration of a practice on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Haynes, a baseball man his whole life, stands behind a net while he looks at the Warriors swing on pitches thrown by assistant coach Jason Burton.

“Why are you doing that again?” He asks one hitter. “You’re too good of a hitter to do that.”

A few swings later, the ball is rockets into the gap.

“That’s what I was talking about,” he says.

Practice is focused, the players are cheering each other on as they make small adjustments to their swing until everyone is hitting the ball well. First baseman Jamison Trower wants extra reps against breaking balls. Pitcher Rick Spiers sarcastically calls him selfish and carries on about how much Trower always wants to be in the box. It’s a combination of having fun and learning.

The next day, Matoaca routed Prince George 12-3 in an important Conference 12 tilt.
“We practice like it’s a college practice, not like high school,” said Trower. “Our mentality is one game at a time, we don’t think about the future, we play hard together and get together as a family.”

Matoaca currently has 17 players on the diamond in college. After the four college seniors graduate in Bryan Bierlein (Christopher Newport), Corey Ramsey (Longwood), Logan Walker (Bowling Green), and Nathan Chamberlain (Hampden-Sydney) Matoaca will field at least 20 players in 2015. The number is growing.

The Warriors have the six players profiled heading to college next year, plus Spiers, who is expected to make a college decision as well. This culture of producing student-athletes that excel on the field and in the classroom has been in place for years.

“We made it a point to celebrate our student athletes when they made their plans for after high school even if it wasn’t baseball related,” explained former and 12 year head coach Fred Stoots. “For example Josh Heilman went into the coast guard and Forrest Lodge elected to go to James Madison for academics instead of playing baseball.”

Stoots also credits the various coaches that have been on staff at Matoaca and said that former coach Grant Odell really laid the foundation for many of the coaches to build on for the future of the program.

“Obviously talent is key,” said Stoots. “But I’d like to hope that since all the coaches in the program placed the same importance on high education that it helped influence our players in the positive way.”

That’s a part of the culture needed to churn out players who lead by example and set examples for younger players. Craig Johnson told a story about how in the eighth grade, Michael Howerton, who is now a pitcher at JMU took extra time to help him out despite him being younger.

“When you see the players that are going to school you know exactly what you have to do,” said Johnson. “You see them physically, you see how hard they throw and hit the ball, and you know what you have to do.”

Trower also spoke of the other side of the coin- off the field.

“We learn that you work hard in and out of school,” he explained. “College baseball isn’t all about how you are on the field, it’s about how you represent yourself off the field as a person.”

Matoaca has ridden the ideals in place and the core of their team to a 7-1 record in 2014 with the lone loss of the season coming at the hands of Lee-Davis.

Thursday, they’ll face off with Thomas Dale, looking to sweep the Knights in non-conference action and they’ll build towards putting together a stretch run that hopefully propels them past the first round of the region tournament. Somewhere they haven’t been since 2010.

JAKE BAILEY
Primary Position: 1B/DH
College: Bridgewater
2014 stats: .409 BA 9 R 10 BB
Scouting Report: Bailey is applauded by his coaching staff for his work ethic and desire to win. That work ethic drives Bailey to put in the necessary work for the team to achieve that goal. will work hard and do whatever it takes for the team to achieve that goal. He spreads the ball around the field and has a good eye at the plate, drawing 10 walks thus far this season. Bailey is also a strong defensive player.

JAMISON TROWER
Primary Position: 1B/DH
College: University of Maryland-Eastern Shore
2014 stats: .400 BA 6 R 6 BB
Scouting Report: The 6-foot 215 pound Trower has what the Matoaca coaching staff called “college middle of the order” power at the dish.  He possesses good speed and has a strong work ethic in the classroom and on the field. Both he and his twin brother Grayson are highly motivated. Trower will attend University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

GRAYSON TROWER
Primary Position: RF
College: University of Maryland-Eastern Shore
2014 stats: .360 BA 2 R 6 BB
Scouting Report: Grayson Trower may be the most athletic player the Warriors have to offer and has great speed. He’s applauded for his coaching ability and respect towards his peers. The 5-11 170 pound Trower is skilled defensively and has a “plus arm” in right field.

PHILLIP VAN KEUREN
Primary Position: CF
College: Pitt Community College
2014 stats: .440 BA 7 R 12 BB/4.2 IP 3.00 ERA Opp BA .190 6 K
Scouting Report: Van Keuren is perhaps the most versatile player the Warriors have to offer. He plays, infield, outfield and pitches with a submarine-style delivery. Despite being a smaller player, he’s got good gap power and mixes that with great speed to push the defense. He’ll look to transfer elsewhere after some time at Pitt Community College.

CRAIG JOHNSON
Primary Position: 3B/P
College: Christopher Newport
2014 stats: 1-0 record 0.87 ERA opp BA .185
Scouting Report: Head coach Tim Haynes called him the “brain” of the team, as he sports one of the highest GPAs and the highest SAT score at 1300. Along with playing third base he’s excelled on the mound allowing just one earned run and allowing hitters to bat .185 against him. He’s acclaimed for a strong work ethic in the classroom and on the field. 

GRANT BOYD
Primary Position: Catcher/Pitcher
College: King College (TN)
2014 stats: .286 BA 5 R 3 BB/4.0 IP 1.75 ERA 1 SV Opp BA .071
Scouting Report: Boyd’s hands and arm make it so that he could play infield, catcher or pitch in college. He serves as Matoaca’s catcher and closer in 2014. On the mound, Boyd isn’t afraid to challenge batters- and he has the repertoire to do so with velocity that touches the upper 80s with a good breaking ball and change-up.

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