by Chris Hunt

The SouthLake Christian Academy baseball team’s potent offense has already proven it can carry the team to victory this season. SouthLake has outscored opponents 189-76, building a record of 13-2 as of April 5, and taken over first place in the Metrolina Athletic Conference with a 7-1 mark. The Eagles average more than 13.5 runs per contest and seniors Jared Fortune, Sam Remick, Cameron Travis, Nathan Sharp, Bobby Troutman and Travis Hallman all boast batting averages above .400.

But to compete for the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A state title, where the Eagles have fallen short in the semi-finals the past two seasons, coach Rich Landis hopes to shore up the squad’s pitching and defense.

“We’re pretty comfortable that we’ll hit the ball all year from start to finish,” said Landis. “We need to be better on the mound and on defense. We are certainly capable of that; we have the (pitching) arms and the experience; we just need to take ownership of (the mound).”

Landis has reason for encouragement after SouthLake won a close one at Asheville Christian Academy on April 2. The Eagles showed they could also win with defense against a 2A playoff-caliber team, shutting out the Blues 3-0. SouthLake defeated Asheville Christian in the quarterfinals during last season’s playoffs and could see them again in the postseason.

Against Asheville Christian, the ­Eagles could never get their bats going in the windy conditions, stranding 10 base runners. Then again, three runs was all pitcher Jared Fortune needed. The senior turned in a complete-game, two-hit shutout and struck out nine for his second win of the spring.

SouthLake followed up the impressive performance with an important 10-3 victory at Asheville School, the second of two games on April 2. Landis said the win over 3A Asheville School is a big feather in the Eagles’ cap for playoff seeding. That victory, along with a positive outcome in a 12-8 slugfest against Charlotte Hickory Grove on March 12, should be attractive to the selection committee.

“It bodes well to be able to say that we beat more than one 3A playoff-caliber team,” said Landis.

On March 25, the Eagles jumped to the top of the MAC standings with the win over Hickory Grove, which is also 6-1 in the league. Both teams have combined to win the last three conference championships. Hickory Grove was crowned champ the first season SouthLake was in the MAC, but the Eagles have taken the last two. This spring, 3A Matthews Covenant Day and Indian Trail Metrolina Christian could also factor in the conference race. The Eagles’ only MAC loss this season is to Covenant Day. The rematch  is set for April 12 in Matthews.

• SouthLake’s Palmer Coleman has recently stood out in a lineup loaded with offensive weapons – which isn’t always an easy thing to do. The Eagles’ towering, 6-foot-4 slugger is 10-for-15 in the Eagles’ last four games, with a triple, three home runs and 17 RBIs. Coleman blasted three home runs and collected nine RBIs against Lincoln Charter on April 1. He now has seven home runs and 31 RBIs, to go along with a .466 batting average, this spring.