That was three years and many hits ago, and Bertone is now the most experienced Hopewell Titan on the field, the lone four-year varsity player in coach Chet Greeson’s lineup.
Bertone still draws from the experiences of his early varsity days, and he sees the Titans’ freshmen and sophomores learning the same kind of lessons now, whether they’re defending against a bunt or trying to get a hit with the game on the line.
“It’s great for our guys to be in those situations,” says Bertone.
Greeson knew that this Hopewell team would have some growing pains, a season after the Titans finished third in the MECKA 4A and knocked off regular season champion Hough to win the conference tournament.
“We’re counting on a lot of kids who are first-time varsity guys,” says Greeson, now in his eighth year at Hopewell.
It’s taken time, but the Titans are playing better after starting the season 1-7 against the likes of Lake Norman, Ardrey Kell and Hough. Hopewell is 6-4 since the back-to-back losses to the rival Huskies in mid-March.
Last week, the Titans picked up possibly their best win to date, a 7-1 victory against East Meck in the Jack Sink Spring Break Classic. Sophomore John Gunthorpe went 3-for-4 with a triple and drove in two runs as starting pitcher Tyler White allowed just three Eagle hits. A day later at Myers Park, the Titans led 19-win Charlotte Country Day 2-0 much of the game, then rallied to tie it in the seventh inning after falling behind 4-2. Though it was ultimately a 5-4 loss, Greeson liked the effort he saw, especially after the Bucs took the lead.
“We battle, keep ourselves in it,” he says. “I think we’ve started learning and figuring out what it takes to win. I think early on when we’d get down, the confidence level would drop so low. We’ve fought through using that as an excuse now.”
The Titans often have two freshmen (Tanner Gresham and Trevor Lawrimore) and a sophomore (White, when he’s not pitching) starting in the infield along with senior first baseman Zach Bennett. Gunthorpe plays center and leads off. Those are key roles for underclassmen to fill, but the youthful Titans are growing into them.
“I think our young guys are gaining confidence,” he says. “They still make mistakes, but they’ve sped their play up a little bit.”
The starting left fielder, Bertone leads the Titans with a .375 average, 13 RBIs and seven doubles to go with a triple and a home run. Gunthorpe is hitting .364, and junior catcher Aaron McMellon is hitting .343.
Senior Mitchell Biery and White are getting the bulk of the starts on the mound, and both have ERAs under 3.
Hopewell matches up with North Meck in this week’s MECKA play. The Titans were to host North Tuesday and will visit the Vikings Friday.