Photo by Dave Lindaman 

When Orange Baseball Coach Dean Dease finished his fall workout in October, he looked at a blank lineup card thinking about potential starters for his season-opener in March.

An uneasy feeling set in.

For four years, the opening day starter was written in ink, barring injury. It was Bryse Wilson. And most of the starting lineup was almost as elementary.

That process grew much harder this year.

Orange baseball is going through 2017 following a dropoff in talent rarely seen over the course of a year. Bryse Wilson, the most successful pitcher in Orange history, graduated from Orange on June 9 with a career record of 33-4 with a 0.90 ERA. He struck out 335 batters in four years, which was really three-and-a-half because of a shoulder injury suffered in his sophomore season.

Accompanying him in turning the tassels was his battery mate for four years, catcher Brad Debo. He ended his Orange career with a .428 average with 13 home runs and 100 RBIs. Now a freshman at N.C. State, Debo has already started 13 games with the Wolfpack, hitting .340 with five doubles, a home run and 11 RBIs.

If you’re waiting for another arm like Wilson’s or a bat like Debo’s to pop up around Hillsborough again any time soon, you may as well be hoping to see Greyson Allen be honored at the Smith Center for his final game in Chapel Hill next year, if he’s even back to begin with.

Then there’s the six other position players that Orange lost. First baseman Austin Sykes, shortstop Cameron Mehl, left fielder Chandler Compton, right fielders Jamil Jordan and centerfielder Johnny Flynn and 3rd baseman Cole Campanile.

And top reliever Landon Riley.

Those players were part of four consecutive Big 8 Conference Championships, two district titles, and a sectional championship. They went 92-16 over a four year period.

Now, with Orange facing a lull in action this week because of rain and cold weather, the Panthers will continue its season against Corinth-Holders with a 1-3 record following a 3-0 loss to Southern Lee on Saturday.

Before the season started, Dease compared his 2017 squad to his 2009 team. Orange had won the 2008 2-A State Championship but lost nine seniors to graduation. The 2009 squad finished 7-7.

“We hope to be a good team by April,” said Dease after the loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday. “We have younger players to develop. The only position players we have returning from last year are Jaydin Poteat and Jason Slaughter. So we have some growing to do.”

Southern Lee (6-0) notched its fourth straight shoutout, though there were anxious moments. The Panthers loaded the bases in the 4th inning with no outs after Caige Clayton reached on an error, Eric Nichols ripped a line drive down the third base line, and catcher Dylan Hall reached on another error. Cavaliers pitcher Topher Grant calmly struck out the next two batters, then shortstop Joey Berini lined out to left fielder Jonathan Husk to escape the treat unharmed.

Despite taking his first loss of the season, Orange pitcher Derek Lindaman threw a solid five and two-thirds innings. Two of Southern Lee’s runs came when the first three batters of the game reached in the first inning. Grant lined a two-run single to left field to score Husk and Noah Terhune.

In the middle innings, Lindaman retired 12 in a row. He finished with ten strikeouts, yielding only three hits.

Orange’s game against East Chapel Hill was postponed on Wednesday night at Panther Field because of wet grounds. A make-up date hasn’t been released.

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