Justin Keever has achieved a milestone that hadnâ€™t yet been achieved, at least in the past 15 years on the baseball diamond.
That achievement? Finish the season with a .500 batting average. Wolves head coach Bobby Martin believes it will be a long time before anybody at Lincolnton finishes with a higher average.
â€œIt could be a while. The thing about that batting average is he was hitting .540 the last two weeks of the season. They (seasons like that) are few and far between. He just got locked in and pitches looked like watermelons,â€ he said.
Keever also had three homeruns and 20 RBIs on the year. At one point this season, he had a 17-game hit streak.
Keever credits his teammates and getting in good rhythm for the awesome season heâ€™s put together in garnering Co-Midwest 2A Player of the Year honors with East Rutherfordâ€™s Chad Flack.
â€œI was slow at first. I got in a groove, started seeing the ball and just felt comfortable up there. Things started to happen and I have good batters behind me (Will Fox and Bradley Dalrymple), so they canâ€™t really pitch around me too much so, Iâ€™ve been seeing some good pitches,â€ he said.
In Martinâ€™s 15 years at the helm at Lincolnton High heâ€™s never seen anything like Keeverâ€™s season.
â€œHe went for three weeks and nobody got him out. He was getting two or three hits a game and walking two or three a game,â€ he said.
â€œWhen your average gets so high, itâ€™s hard to make it go up. It can only come down and thatâ€™s what his did,â€ Martin said.
Keever credits an extra year playing on the varsity level for his success.
â€œIâ€™ve seen a lot of different pitching Moving up helped me see the varsity level early, so I got an extra year on most people so I have more experience. I donâ€™t let the pressure get to me,â€ he said.
But the plate is not the only area where Keever has stood out this season, as he posted a 7-5 record and 1.38 ERA on the mound, along with 68 Ks and only nine walks in 70 2/3 innings. He even recorded two saves.
â€œIâ€™ve been working hard and practicing hard. I let it rest in the winter didnâ€™t play any sports, so my arm has felt good. My slider is straight-up nasty, Evan Wise helped me learn how to throw the curveball which just added to my arsenal,â€ he said.
His coach believes that Keever has earned the respect of his teammates throughout the year, because they believe he will come through.
â€œThey (Co-captains Colby Burgin and Brian Ebert and other seniors) have all contributed. He has led by example. Theyâ€™re confident when he is on the mound, they feel good about him standing in the batterâ€™s box when we have people on base,â€ Martin said.
As Keeverâ€™s career winds down, he has two very special people in his life to help thank for the success heâ€™s been able to have.
â€œMy dad has always encouraged me to play my best and my mom pushes me to excel, to play AAU ball and taking me to all those games, even in Tennessee,â€ he said.
The Wolves finished the season No. 2 in the conference behind back-to-back state champion East Rutherford. But Lincolnton was able to play the Cavaliers close both times they faced them this season. Keever feels thatâ€™s a matter of cohesiveness.
â€œWeâ€™ve been playing good. We came together as a team. When itâ€™s time to come down to the clutch, we have the people that can get the runs,â€ he said.
With the Wolves gearing up for a state title run, back in the 2A State Playoffs for the first time since 1999, theyâ€™re going to try to put their first round loss in the Midwest 2A Conference Tournament to the Bunker Hill Bears behind them.
â€œWe werenâ€™t ready to play. I thought it would be an easy win, we just got kind of cocky. Weâ€™re ready to play, weâ€™ve had good practice all week and we know what we got to do to win,â€ Keever said.
After his career in black and gold has winded down, Keeverâ€™s new colors will be babyblue of North Carolina Tarheels, where he will look to extend his baseball career.
â€œIâ€™m going to try to walk on, but if not Iâ€™m going to play club ball at least cause I got the James M. Johnston Scholarship for academics,â€ he said.
Keever has more immediate plans, winning a state title and beating the Cavaliers.
â€œWeâ€™re playing good baseball right now. I want to make it to the third round and play East Rutherford and beat them.â€by John Mark Brooks