WAXHAW – It’s time to reload at Marvin Ridge.
Marvin Ridge came up short of winning a third-straight Class 3A State Championship last season and graduation has left a hole in the Mavericks’ roster as four starters return. Four players from last year’s team are playing Division I college baseball this season.
But the cupboard is far from bare for the Mavericks.
“You lose guys every year that are important to your program,” Mavericks coach Mark Mennitt said. “I think we have built something here that is pretty sustainable in passing it on to the next generation. We have some guys that will be in new roles just like we have every year.
“Our expectations are going to remain the same. There is enough talent here.”
Tops on the list of returning players is pitcher Matthew Helms and infielder Stephen Ridge, who has already signed with North Carolina-Wilmington.
Helms, who is also a senior, will be the ace of the pitching staff after being in the No. 3 role as a junior a year ago. Helms was 5-1 with a 1.00 ERA a year ago. He is being recruited by Wingate and Furman among others.
“We expect him to carry the load this year,” Mennitt said. “He is more than up for the challenge. He is going to go out and compete no matter if he is the No. 1 or the No. 3, or No. 5. We are excited about his senior season. I have known him since he was 9 years old and he continues to impress me on a daily basis. He loves to compete and he rarely gets hit all over the place.”
Ridge batted .342 with 13 RBIs and 15 runs scored while earning all-conference honors as a junior last season. Ridge will be at shortstop.
“Stephen has a lot of tools,” Mennitt said. “We are looking for huge things from him in the middle of our order.”
Senior utility player Bryce Bilodeau and junior catcher Jake Machado are the other two returning starters. Bilodeau hit .307 with 17 RBIs and 15 runs scored a year ago.
“Bryce can play anywhere and he will probably play three or four different positions because he is so versatile,” Mennitt said. “He will hit in the middle of the order and he has really stepped up his leadership. We are fortunate to have Jake back because he has done an outstanding job with our pitchers.”
Marvin Ridge’s bid for a rare third consecutive state title fell short as the Mavericks season ended in the semifinals when they were swept 2-0 in a best two-out-of-three series by Crest High School.
The losses signaled the end of a talented senior class that helped the Mavericks to the 2015 and 2016 Class 3A state championships.
Mennitt has built Marvin Ridge into one of the top baseball programs in North Carolina, regardless of classification. Mennitt has won 217 games and a remarkable 10-straight Southern Carolina Conference regular season championships.
Over the past three seasons, Marvin Ridge is 84-18 and the Mavericks are the 10-time defending conference champs. They won the conference last season with a 13-2 record.
Mennitt said the conference race will be a battle from start to finish.
“If there is a better conference, I just can’t believe it,” Mennitt said. “We have talent throughout this area and we have teams that are well coached. We have teams that are seasoned. I think it is going to be a fun, fun conference race. When you play a three-game series against caliber teams, it is going to be interesting.”
Marvin Ridge opened the season Feb. 28 when they hosted Ardrey Kell.