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Meadowcreek finds early baseball success

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Meadowcreek's Austin Wilkey (16) delivers a pitch to a Central Gwinnett batter in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Meadowcreek's Austin Wilkey (16) delivers a pitch to a Central Gwinnett batter in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Meadowcreek assistant baseball coach Bond Crosby teaches a swinging technique to Michael Bynoe prior to his at bat against Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville on Tuesday. The Mustangs are off to one of its stronger starts under head coach Chris Reeves with a 4-6 record.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan The Meadowcreek baseball team is off to one of its stronger starts under head coach Chris Reeves. Coach Reeves talks with the Mustangs prior to their game against Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan The Meadowcreek baseball team stand on the first base line during the Nation Anthem prior to their double header against Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Meadowcreek's Shea Wilkey (29) is greeted by head coach Chris Reeves with a fist pound at third base during double header action against Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.

Sometimes a small thing carries great meaning.

Before Tuesday at Central Gwinnett, Meadowcreek's baseball team had ripped off four straight wins.

In a vacuum, this seems a shrug. Baseball teams play plenty of games, sometimes two in a day, so four in a row means little, right?

But like the sport itself, plenty happens below the surface.

Consider: When Chris Reeves left the mortgage industry eight years ago to head the Mustangs, his team won just two games, barely scoring one run a game and often trailing by enough to shorten the game.

That's when the re-building began, and like Rome, it took some time. Reeves convinced the administration to let him play a non-region schedule the following season to ease the pressure and increase the competition for his players.

"We said let's play some teams we can compete with," Reeves said of the decision of dropping out of Region 8-AAAAA with state powers Brookwood and Parkview. "If we lose 8-4, at least my kids got to play seven innings, they got to know what it's like to compete and maybe in a couple of years that's a game we can win 8-4.

"It wasn't teaching our guys anything and it wasn't benefiting our guys ... to play three innings, your guys got one, maybe two at-bats. It wasn't doing anything for us."

The next year, Meadowcreek won three games. The most the Mustangs have won under Reeves were nine games in 2009, so to win nearly half of that total in a row early in the season is notable. Underneath that top-end success, modest as it may be, lays a foundation set during the Reeves' years.

This is the first season Meadowcreek has a junior varsity team, a tribute to rising interest in the program and, Reeves hopes, a harbinger of a strong future.

"That way we get some of the younger guys who might not play every day on the varsity level, they can play 10, 12 games at the JV level," Reeves said. "Gain them some playing times and at-bats and give them a chance to compete and learn the game in a game-time situation."

And with the youth and interest, the wins are coming for the young team. First baseman Eric Arp is the team's only senior and an invaluable asset.

"He leads the way," Reeves said of his senior. "He knows the way we want to do things at practice, the way we want to set things up, the ebb and flow of how practice should go. He relays it to the younger guys that way I don't have to go in and yell."

On offense, John Arnold leads the team with a .308 batting average and junior shortstop and pitcher Shea Wilkey has the team's only home run, a grand slam against Central Gwinnett on Tuesday as the team rallied from down 6-0 before falling 13-11 in eight innings. Football player and sophomore DeAndre Smith, in his first season playing baseball for the Mustangs, is hitting .296 with a pair of doubles in nine games.

"He is just a raw athlete, where if he gets a couple more years under his belt he's going to be a great ball player," Reeves said of Smith.

On the mound the younger Wilkey, Austin, is 1-4 with a 2.94 ERA and 28 strikeouts. The freshman also has a save.

For Reeves, the combination of the youth, the rising interest and, now, the wins makes this early part of the season fun. His only complaint was the rain. He wants more games.

"It's nice now that we have the success and we have a good foundation," Reeves said. "We have a good foundation of freshmen and sophomores that play a substantial amount and they contribute. It's something that we've waited a long time for, to have that youth that we can kind of build upon and we are enjoying it."