Green Wave aims for state title

Charlie Fessler is batting .415 for the Summerville baseball team this season. (Roger Lee/Journal Scene)

The Summerville Green Wave baseball team opened the 2015 season as one of the teams considered capable of challenging for the Class AAAA state title this spring.

With the state playoffs set to begin in less than two weeks, it now appears Summerville is the overwhelming favorite to claim the crown.

Summerville has won 15 of 17 games this season, captured championships of two prestigious in-state tournaments, and has vaulted to the No. 1 one ranking in Class AAAA statewide polls. Summerville is ranked 14th nationally by Collegiate Baseball and 21st by MaxPreps.

With a veteran squad (12 seniors) that has improved offensively and rides great pitching to victories, the Green Wave has all of the ingredients necessary for a championship run.

First-year head coach Banks Faulkner, who spent one season (2011) as the head coach at Wando, arrived at Summerville from AAAA power Lexington. Faulkner has experienced great success in championship programs. He won a state title as a player at Lexington in 1999 and won rings while assisting at Gilbert (2006) and Lexington (2013).

“When I met with the players last May, I just told them that if they wanted to win championships, they would have to be willing to work harder than they have ever worked before,” said Faulkner. “These players deserve all the credit. They have worked extremely hard. They bought into the system and they worked hard to grasp everything. We pushed them hard all summer and all fall and they never backed off. It certainly helped to have some early success because it really built their confidence in themselves and in the program.”

Balance and depth have been keys to Summerville’s success through the regular season. The Green Wave struggled offensively early, as most teams do in colder weather, but have raised the overall team batting average to .320.

Among the team’s top offensive leaders are senior first baseman Charlie Fessler (.415, 15 RBIs), senior outfielder Matt Powell (.395, 2 HRs, 13 RBIs) and senior centerfielder T.J. Hopkins (.352, 2 HRs, 13 SB). Fessler has signed with Florence-Darlington Tech, Powell with USC Sumter, and Hopkins with South Carolina.

The Summerville pitching staff is allowing less than three runs per game with a team earned run average of 1.75. Opponents this season are hitting only .179 against the staff.

The ace of the staff is junior right-hander Sawyer Bridges, also a USC commitment. Bridges is 2-1 on the season — his lone loss a 1-0 decision to Ashley Ridge — with a 0.62 earned run average. Fessler has added four wins on the mound while junior Wilson Beattie is 3-0 with a 1.23 earned run average.

Faulkner says his team’s maturity thus far has been most impressive. After suffering its first loss of the season to Ashley Ridge, the Green Wave bounced back to win the next two games of the series. In the Diamond Invitational spring break tournament, Summerville lost to Socastee, 15-9, but won the tournament title the following night with a 12-2 win over Lexington.

Summerville also is 6-0 this season against teams that were ranked in the top 10.

“We’ve had some adversity but to their credit, this group just shows up to play the next day,” said Faulkner. “All that hard work in the summer is about mental toughness and overcoming adversity.”

Summerville will wrap up the Region 8-AAAA title early next week and will flip the switch and focus to the playoffs. Faulkner understands that playoff baseball is much different and says even the best teams need some breaks.

“A lot of the playoffs is about matchups and catching a few breaks, whether it be upsets or not facing someone’s number one pitcher, whatever the case may be,” he said. “My biggest message to our kids is to worry about us. Worry about what we do and how we play, not who we are playing.

“If we take care of our business, we will have a chance to win. We have a team certainly capable of winning a state title but we have to bring that focus and intensity to every game and see what happens.”