ZooKeepers could be solid on mound

ASHEBORO – There will be a few returning players on Asheboro’s Coastal Plain League team, but by and large the 2022 roster will look different in many ways.

An upgrade in experience is something that could benefit the ZooKeepers the most.

“We try our best to get the best players you come across,” said head coach Jeremy Knight, who’s also the co-general manager and in his second year with the team.

Asheboro posted a 23-21 record last year, when it was nicknamed Copperheads before an offseason rebranding.

The ZooKeepers are slated for road games at Forest City and Holly Springs on Thursday and Friday nights before Saturday night’s home opener against the Wilson Tobs at renovated McCrary Park. That begins a stretch of four home games across six nights.

Knight said he likes the mix of pitchers likely to be the core of the staff.

“I think we’ll be good with arms,” he said. “We might be light on position players when we begin.”

As always, there can be surprises regarding the roster right up until the season starts.

“With summer ball, you don’t really know what you’re going to get until they get here,” Knight said.

The Asheboro returnees are catcher Justin Wilcoxen out of East Carolina and pitchers Danny Heintz of Pennsylvania, Michael Osmond from Division III Wittenburg (Ohio) and John Owen from Division III Pfeiffer.

There’s also the possibility that Asheboro High School alum Trevor Marsh, an outfielder for UNC Wilmington, could rejoin the team after playing for his hometown club last summer. That won’t come at least until after this week’s Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at Elon.

Knight said the ZooKeepers will have more players who were regulars in their college lineups than a year ago.

“We’re going to see if that makes a difference,” he said, figuring that should be a plus. “They might come in tired, so there’s a double-edged sword.”

Area colleges will be well-represented. From UNC Greensboro, there’s pitchers Sam Murchison and Hunter Shuey and outfielders Ethan McKay and Kennedy Jones; from High Point, pitchers Patrick Libby and Connor Smith; and from Davidson, pitcher Maddux Smith.

There’s also a hometown element with Asheboro’s Bryce Marsh. The former Southwestern Randolph player is a first baseman/pitcher for Pfeiffer.

By Bob Sutton