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RAY COX | The Roanoke Times
Rockbridge standout Ryan Coale moved behind the plate this season to learn the position he expects to play in college.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
It says something about Ryan Coale's baseball abilities that he's been in a mild slump and is still batting .500.
"When you start out hitting .816, there's not many ways to go from there," said Shawn Abell, Coale's coach at Rockbridge County High School.
Coale, younger brother of former Virginia Tech and current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Danny Coale, is making a name for himself in this sport. Already verbally committed to VCU as a junior, Coale has done a little bit of everything in his baseball life including playing outfield, infield, and pitching. This year he converted successfully to catcher, where he expects to play in college.
"I love it," he said of the position change. "Batting lefty as a catcher they say is rare. I like it a lot. I like being in the game at all times, controlling the game. This is my first year at the position, but that's the position VCU recruited me as. I look forward to getting better behind the plate."
He'll have ample opportunity to work on his catching between now and then. After playing elite level offseason travel ball for the Richmond Braves, he'll be playing again this summer in the Valley League, the longstanding wooden bat league populated mostly with college players. He'll play for the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks again.
"It was a great time playing against the college [players] last year," he said.
So far, Coale has gone 20 for 40 at the plate with nine RBIs and eight steals for the Wildcats (6-7, 1-5 Blue Ridge District). In 18 1⁄ 3 innings on the mound, he has yielded two earned runs for an ERA of 0.76.
Despite the age difference between Ryan Coale and his older brothers Danny and Kevin, who coaches at a private school in Atlanta, the brothers are close.
"They're my best friends," Ryan said. "They'll call me every night after a game just to talk. They're my biggest fans and I'm their biggest fan."
A missed sign has led to some high crunch time anxiety at Hogoheegee District power Chilhowie.
In the process of an 11-1 victory at James River April 27, No. 5 hitter Caleb Sheets missed a sign, squared to bunt, and took an inside pitch off the index finger of his right hand. After a visit to the emergency room it was determined he had fractured the tip of his finger and peeled the skin on the inside of the digit from one edge of his fingernail to the other, according to Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson.
The original hope was that the skin could be stitched back in place. That proved unworkable. Sheets finger was then bandaged and put in a splint.
If there was good news, it was the damage occurred to the right hand, thus holding out hope that southpaw Sheets could return to pitching duties. Sheets, a senior, is 23-5 in four seasons, 6-1 with a 1.71 earned run average this year.
"We're hoping we can have him back next week so he can pitch against Holston," said Robinson, whose Warriors were 13-1, 4-0 going into Thursday's game against Rural Retreat.
On May 9, Chilhowie is on the road for the first of two Hogoheegee District showdowns with 2012 Group A Division 1 runner-up Holston .
"I told my catcher [T.J. Lewis] that if he has to walk out there and hand Caleb the ball, that's what we're going to do," said Robinson, who was in no joking mood.
Sheets also plays a very good first base. He was hitting .486 with a team-leading 22 RBIs in 10 games. It seems as though a return to the lineup is unlikely, but Robinson was unwilling to rule it out .
There was also happier news to report. Sheets and fellow senior standout Forrest Haga (.595, as many extra base hits as singles) are being recruited by UVa-Wise. Haga has also been linked with King University.
Lewis, the catcher, is Emory & Henry-bound. Junior shortstop Tyler Pierce is already being looked at by Radford and William and Mary.
Titan takes the bat
Since being inserted into the lineup for the first time in his high school career, Hidden Valley pitching ace Ryan Lauria has gone 8 for 13 (.615) with three RBIs and four doubles. He's hit for himself when he pitched and also took a turn at DH.
Lauria, who will pitch for Louisville next year, batted ninth at first, but has since moved up to seventh in the order, Titans coach Jason Taylor said.
Floyd gets strong start
Floyd County is off to its best start in the Three Rivers District since the 2000 season.
The Buffaloes had won their first seven district games and stood 10-6 overall going into Friday's pivotal tilt with visiting Glenvar. Last year the Buffaloes won their first six district games before losing three of their last four regular season games. Floyd advanced to the final of the district tournament and the Region C playoffs, where it won its opener with Grayson County.
Before that, Floyd had not made it to the postseason since 2000, when the Buffaloes were the regular season champions. They advanced to the regional tournament and lost in the opening round.
Two Cavaliers commit
Lord Botetourt pitcher Zack Kelly and teammate Michael Mnich will both pitch in college, Kelly at Concord University and Mnich at Alderson-Broaddus.
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