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Darrell Van Dyke knows a thing or two about the high school baseball season in these parts.
The Clover High School mentor, who previously coached at East Gaston High School across the border, is entering his seventh season as head baseball coach in Blue Eagle Country.
With the high school baseball season in full swing, Van Dyke hopes the Blue Eagles can find a groove as they say in baseball lingo.
The baseball-wise CHS coach with the folksy demeanor said the play has been sporadic in the preseason and the early stages of regular-season play due to constant rainfall.
“I know it’s been that way for all of the teams we play,” said Van Dyke. “We’ve had to make adjustments because of the weather. There have been times when we’ve practiced in the gym and played in the rain. We need to get into a rhythm.”
The energetic CHS coach has been pleased with the effort during the preseason and regular season.
“The kids have great attitudes and play hard,” he noted.
“We are a much improved tem this year,” observed Van Dyke. “The talent level is the best it’s been in two years.”
The Blue Eagles have nine returning lettermen from last year’s team. Among the key returnees are Chase Goldberg, Zane Van Hook and Corey Parham.
Key newcomers include hard-throwing Patrick Love, Davis McCarter and Barrett Courtwright.
Van Dyke doesn’t prefer to use the familiar cliché everybody’s digging in when describing the team’s mindset and commitment to the program. “We aren’t digging, he said. “I prefer to say the team is climbing.”
Van Dyke looks for another wild season in always-tough Region 3-AAAA this season.
“If you don’t come prepared to play every game, you’ll get beat,” he warned. “The region is that competitive.”
Van Dyke said Northwestern is strong again in the region this season.
“The other region teams are capable of making a move,” he reasoned.
The Blue Eagles have had their moments in the preseason and early stages of regular-season play.
“We were 2-3 in a preseason tournament,” commented Van Dyke. “All of the games were close.”
The Blue Eagles’ improvement was evident in a 5-5 game with a good Fort Mill team that reached the eighth inning before being canceled.
“We were one misplay away from having the lead,” he said. “We will pick up the game in the eighth inning when the team travels to Fort Mill March 26.”
This is Van Dyke’s 34th season as a high school baseball head coach, 27 of which were at East Gaston where he compiled an eyebrow-raising 362-289-2 record.
His 71 wins at Clover pushes his career win total well over the coveted 400 mark.
“I’ve coached a lot of years and had good players,” Van Dyke said of a career win milestone few coaches reach in their profession. “More importantly, I’ve had a lot of great young men.”
The upstart Blue Eagles conclude a busy week of action when they host the Rock Hill Bearcats Friday at the Clover High School baseball field. The Region 3-AAAA game is slated for a 6 p.m. start.
Previous games this week were against non-region foe Gaffney and region county rival Northwestern.
Van Dyke encourages local fans to come out and support the new-look Blue Eagles this season.
With Van Dyke serving as head coach of the Blue Eagles, Judd Dye and Hank Wofford are the varsity assistants. Robbie Wiggans is the head junior varsity baseball coach at Clover High School.