A mob of Warhill baseball players piled on Ethan Currin, chasing him down between first and second base after the sophomore catcher belted the game-winning single Thursday against Lafayette in the season opener for each team.
It was not long ago that first-year Lions coach Lee Underwood wouldn't have been able to name Currin, or any of his teammates, for that matter. And the players didn't know their coach's name, either, before he landed the gig.
"Did ya'll know who I was?" Underwood asked his players in the dugout following the big win. "I told them we all are starting fresh. I don't have any grudges against them. They don't know me. We're just going to go out here and learn together. And we came together today."
How foreboding a statement Warhill's win Thursday is remains to be seen. It was just the first game, after all, and Lafayette coach Rick Schenk did not throw either of his "power pitchers," Chase Smith or Geo Rivera. The Rams were clean defensively and Schenk, who guided them to the state quarterfinals last season after a state title in 2015, knew offense would be a challenge for his team.
The win was plenty cause for celebration, though, for the Lions, who hadn't beaten the Rams in several seasons — and a reminder that there will be no freebies in Bay Rivers District play this season.
"Jamestown is going to be good," Schenk said. "You can see Warhill just beat us. We have some work to do. Can't take any game off."
Here's a closer look at what to expect from each area Bay Rivers baseball team this season:
Schenk cautioned that even his 2015 title team was not overloaded with batting power, despite boasting the likes of brothers Andre and Luc Lipcius, now freshmen contributors at Tennessee.
Schenk knows pitching will be the name of the game again for Lafayette, led by Smith, Rivera, Chase Bauer, and Jared Antle.
Rivera, who also plays shortstop and outfield, committed to Old Dominion before his sophomore season even began this spring.
Rams catcher John Keane also signed with the Monarchs and will be one of the guys Schenk looks to compensate for the departed batting order pop of the Lipcius twins. Keane, Antle, John Barton and Gabe Bono each return after hitting better than .300 last season.
The infield also figures to be the strength defensively with everybody back from last year except Andre Lipcius, who played shortstop and pitched.
John Cole had a lot of rebuilding to do following last season's 4A semifinal appearance in his first season as head coach.
The Eagles lost six starters, and N.C. State freshman southpaw pitcher Kent Klyman, but are still considered a favorite to challenge for a district title.
The leaders for Jamestown will include Ryan Devine and Michael Schmidt, though the seniors are just returning to practice after playing major roles in the Eagles' run to the 4A basketball final. Schmidt, a first baseman, hit .421 with 21 RBIs last season and Devine, 9-1 on the mound last year, will pitch for St. Joseph's in Philadelphia next season.
"It may be midway through the year before you see him make another jump," Cole said of Devine, "but he'll be the guy we count on in big games, for sure."
Shortstop Matt Lansford and third baseman Andrew Barrow return to help form what should be a stout defensive group, despite Thursday's season-opening loss to Tabb.
"A lot of the juniors are pretty athletic kids," Cole said. "I don't think we caught the ball real well yesterday, but that should be our strength."
One of the challenges for Cole will be nailing down a No. 2 starter behind Devine, and a closer. Barrow, E.A. Woolwine and Spencer Pietruszynski will be in the mix there.
Underwood, the former Jamestown basketball and baseball coach, inherited only one senior, Ryan Creecy.
Creecy, the starting quarterback on the football team, got the win on Thursday despite having not thrown much the past couple of years.
Alex Cottrell tossed an inning and 1/3 following the exit of starter Sam Rochard, and had no varsity pitching experience entering the contest.
Thursday, Currin finished 3-for-5 at the plate and Luke Gruendl and Riley Motley each added two hits — perhaps more names for Underwood and the district to grow more acquainted with.
"They just have to buy in to what we're teaching," Underwood said. "They're all new. We're new. When they buy in and believe in each other and the coaching staff, we can have some success."
Coach James "Feenie" Carter is using a similar tone in his second season at the helm for Bruton.
"We're going to be OK," Carter said. "If I can get them to believe in themselves and get them in a position to win a few more games, anything can happen in that 2A conference."
The Panthers were eliminated from postseason last year by eventual 2A champion Maggie Walker, and gave the Dragons a scare after winning four district games.
Bruton returns a talented starting battery of sophomore ace Clee Yocyum and catcher Kevin Zamudio, the only senior starter. Each earned all-conference honors last season and Zamudio hit .360.
Darian Brooks, a football and track and field standout, will be a player to watch in Carter's outfield, and sophomore Justin Hicks threw well in spots last season as a rookie and as the Panthers' No. 2 pitcher.
"Just like the Bruton basketball team, we're going to take our bumps and bruises in the Bay Rivers District," Carter said. "But it's experience for us and it makes us better."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.