After win at South Caldwell, new Indians
head coach excited about team’s potential
By CHRIS HOBBS
HICKORY – Jimmy Bowman is in his first season as head varsity baseball coach at St. Stephens High, and he’s already sensing this could be a special season.
After a nine-inning, 3-2 victory on Thursday night at league power South Caldwell, the Indians are off to a 3-0 start.
St. Stephens heads into Tuesday’s battle with archrival Hickory on the road in first place in the Northwestern 3A-4A, a half-game up on South Caldwell (3-1 in the conference) and a game up on McDowell (2-1) in the league.
The Indians had to piece together a run in the ninth inning to win in Hudson. Junior Silas Icenhour walked and Bowman put Elec Marvin in as a pinch-runner, and Marvin stole second base.
After sophomore Justin Skewes singled to put runners at first and third, sophomore Preston Young hit a ground ball to first base. The throw to the plate was in the dirt and Marvin scored the deciding run.
Reliever Josh Barkley closed out the Spartans with a strikeout, groundball out and – after a walk – a strikeout.
“They definitely played hard,” said Bowman, who was an assistant coach at South Caldwell before taking the Indians’ job when Adam Windham accepted a central office job with the Catawba County Schools. “It was a great win. Our pitching was good and we had key at-bats. They definitely played their hearts out.”
St. Stephens has a rich baseball tradition – retired head coach Harry Frye guided the Indians to back-to-back state titles in the early 1970s – but the results through recent years have been mixed.
In a span of 10 years (2011 through 2020), when South Caldwell went 204-42, the Indians were 95-116.
A year ago, in a COVID-shortened season, St. Stephens went 1-5. In records dating back to 1997, the Indians have posted 11 winning years and 12 losing records. They last won a league title in 2008, and they have not had back-to-back winning season since 2008 (18-8) and 2009 (12-11).
Windham had two winning teams in six seasons – 12-10 in 2018 and 16-10 in 2016 – and Bowman quickly says there are no guarantees what lies ahead.
But he is encouraged.
“We’re just three games in,” he said. “It’s still early but they (his players) are starting to believe they can play and they are seeing the results of how hard they have worked.
“I like how competitive they are. They are tough as nails, growing and playing the game the right way.”
The victory over South Caldwell came after the Indians opened with a 14-5 home win over Alexander Central and a five-inning 11-1 home win over Watauga.
At South Caldwell, they won with just three hits (two by Skewes, the other by Gavin Marley).
The Spartans had five hits – two by Gavin Barlowe – but stranded 10 runners.
Julien Peissell relieved Marley and went five innings, striking out nine before Bowman brought in Barkley.
After going to Hickory on Tuesday, the Indians have a league game on Thursday night at Freedom.
The rematch game with South Caldwell is scheduled June 1 in Hickory.
Asked if the Indians can contend for a bid into the state playoffs, Bowman didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Absolutely…,” he said. “If they keep doing what they are doing, they are gonna be a special group to watch.”
ST. STEPHENS’ 2021 SCHEDULE: https://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/st-stephens-indians-(hickory,nc)/baseball/home.htm
BOWMAN NAMED TO GUIDE INDIANS: https://hobbsdailyreport.com/st-stephens-high/high-schools-st-stephens-coaching-additions-include-bowman-to-lead-baseball/