Grizzlies’ veteran coach sees talent
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
February 17, 2013 01:44 AM | 3177 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Creekview will be led by a talented and veteran-laden team that includes, from left, J.J. Echols, Ryan Stevens, C.J. Sims, Ben Carraway, Steven Whitaker, Alex Rolader, Chase Puckett, coach Mike Nayman, Zach Murdock and Ryan Zentko.
<Br>Staff photo by Todd Hull
Creekview will be led by a talented and veteran-laden team that includes, from left, J.J. Echols, Ryan Stevens, C.J. Sims, Ben Carraway, Steven Whitaker, Alex Rolader, Chase Puckett, coach Mike Nayman, Zach Murdock and Ryan Zentko.
Staff photo by Todd Hull
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Mike Nayman would never argue that he hasn’t coached successful teams or players during his seven seasons at Creekview’s baseball coach.

But according to Nayman, this year’s crop of players at Creekview is probably the best yet.

Six of the Grizzlies’ eight seniors on the team have already signed letters of intent to play in college, with Nayman adding the other two senior may, too. Not only that, but Nayman predicts that many of his current underclassmen will be making college commitments in future seasons.

“I firmly believe, out of our roster of 20, we will have 16 or 17 of those guys goes play in college,” Nayman said. “We are very fortunate.”

Already committed are: Ryan Zentko (Georgia Tech), Ben Carraway (Virginia), Steven Whitaker (Coastal Carolina), Chase Puckett (Reinhardt), Ryan Stevens (LaGrange) and C.J. Sims (Shorter).

“The stars have aligned a little bit,” Nayman said. “But, somewhere along the line, guys have come through our system and refined themselves and worked on their game that put them in a spot to be successful.”

Creekview will also benefit from transfer Adam Nun, formerly of the Crown Athletics program affiliated with Woodstock’s Kings Academy, and Puckett, who is returning to the team after taking his junior year off.

Freshman Kyle Wilkie is also expected to contribute.

“All of a sudden, we have a few new faces to go with the old faces, and we have a whole roster full of guys that can play,” Nayman said. “We are very fortunate this year and are going to try to make the best of it.”

The influx of talent will also give the Grizzlies a different look.

“I joke around that we have always known how to knock the ball around a little bit and score a lot of runs and run the bases,” Nayman said. “Defense has been kind of average, and pitching has been whoever could take the ball and throw it, but this year, we have a pitching staff that is the best I have ever coached in 15 years.”

Nayman said he will have the ability to give the ball to several different pitchers who can get people out, and the top-end players will give Creekview the ability to win any game.

“When you have that ability to pitch and play defense, you can win a lot of games and stay in a lot of games,” Nayman said. “You can make a play that makes a difference, and we will have the ability to do that pretty consistently this year.”

Whitaker and Zentko will be key players for the Grizzlies. Both fourth-year members of the team, the pair have had significant roles since they were freshmen.

“We are going to expect them to be a large part of our success,” Nayman said.

One of the strongest defensive players for the Grizzlies is shortstop Chandler Wold. The sophomore was among the top players in the region last season, and with a year of experience, Nayman is excited about what he can do.

“He takes command of our diamond and makes a lot of defensive calls,” Nayman said. “We put him at the top of the lineup last year, and at shortstop, and he has been there for 26 games. I expect him to be there the next three years.”

Other key players include junior pitcher/outfielder Avery Smith and junior pitcher/third baseman Nick Williams.

“The left side of my infield is a sophomore and a junior, so they are only going to get better,” Nayman said. “Our defense is going to be pretty good.”

Nayman said incoming players filled the voids Creekview had, and he didn’t have to make many adjustments to the existing personnel.

“Nun and Puckett just kind of slid into their roles,” said Nayman. “Both of them throw in the upper 80s. Nun will be our closer for now and Puckett will be in the No. 2 spot in our rotation. Kyle Wilkie, a freshman, who just came in this year is turning some heads.”

Wilkie pitches, catches and can play in the outfield.

“He may see some time behind the plate right off the bat,” Nayman said. “He came right in and challenged some of our other guys for position.”

Sims, a senior, and Max Holton, a junior, will compete for time at second base.

“We really have some depth,” Nayman said. “We have the ability to rotate some guys through at first base. We have a lot of guys that can move around a little bit. We have some guys who can come in and pitch. This is the most depth we have had.”
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