Northwood Academy's Jerry Stoots is the dean of Lowcountry baseball coaches. He is in his 41st year as a high school coach and turns 65 in June.
Stoots insists he's not ready to slow down, and says he wants to experience one more state championship before he thinks about retiring.
He's come as close as humanly possible the past four years. Stoots has led Northwood Academy to the SCISA Class AAA state championship series every year since 2008, but each time the Chargers have had to settle for being the runner-up.
“I guess I'm stuck with the tag ‘Can't win the Big One', sort of like Fran Tarkenton,” said Stoots, who has been at Northwood Academy for 10 years. “I've been blessed with good coaches, players and parents. But we have just come up short.”
Tarkenton was one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in the NFL, but was 0-3 in Super Bowls.
The fifth time could be the charm for the Chargers, who have used outstanding pitching and defense, the cornerstones of a championship season, to post a 22-2 record.
“This team has overachieved,” said Stoots, who has more than 800 career victories. “We haven't hit the ball well and part of the reason is the new bat rule. Pitching and defense can carry you a long, long way.”
The team has used eight different pitchers. Senior right-hander Tyler Gross is 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA, and junior left-hander Andrew Lockliear is 6-0 with an ERA of 0.72. Ryan Trout has bounced back from a shoulder injury he suffered during football season and could be the X-factor in the playoffs, which begin Monday. He's 3-0 with an ERA of 0.54.
Billy Detyens, 6-3, 180 pounds, is considered to be one of the top freshmen in the state. The left-hander plays first base and pitches and how shown tremendous potential.
“If he continues to develop and gains some velocity, he can be a Division I prospect — Division II without a question,” Stoots said of Detyens.
Detyens leads the team with a .410 batting average and is 2-0 as a pitcher.
Another key player is catcher Charles Odom, who also pitches. He's 2-0 with a save and a 1.24 ERA
The first step toward the High School League's State Track and Field Championships begins today with various region meets involving local teams.
The Region 7-AAAA meet is a two-day event and begins at 5 p.m. today at West Ashley. It concludes Thursday.
The Region 8-AAAA meet will be held at 3 p.m. today at Beaufort High School.
The Region 6-AA meet is set for 4 p.m. at Bishop England.
The Region 7-AAA meet is at 4 p.m. at Cane Bay.
The path to the state will continue May 5 with lower state and state qualifiers.
The season wraps up May 11-12 with the state championships at Spring Valley High School.
Cane Bay pitcher Zach Wimmer made his final high school pitching appearance in the regular season a memorable one.
The right-hander, who is bound for The Citadel, pitched a no-hitter Friday to give the Cobras a 2-1 victory over Berkeley and the Region 7-AAAA title.
Wimmer is 7-0 on the seasonCane Bay, 17-5, including 8-2 in the region, begins the Class AAA playoffs at home Thursday with a home game against Georgetown.
Follow Phil Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil