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North baseball looks to change the culture
April 11, 2018

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After a promising 6-0 start, it appeared the North Fort Myers High School baseball team had finally turned the corner after years of frustration.

Well, the growing pains soon returned, and the Red Knights found themselves reverting. They lost nine of their next 12, including a walk-off loss to Mariner last week, showing that this team still has a way to go.

Still, head coach Mark Rose has made it clear to everyone in District 6A-11, North will no longer be an opponent you can just mark on the calendar as a win in January.

"We're getting there. It's year two and we're better in the district. It's not where we want to be, but we're getting there," Rose said.

The Red Knights are currently 5-7 in district play.

Against the Tritons last Tuesday, April 3, the Knights did not look like the team that has been hitting .308 as a team, as Jimmy Meredith held them to just one hit in the first four innings, retiring 10 straight hitters at one point.

Meanwhile, North's Peyton Bourque was on the ropes for much of that same time span, allowing single runs in the first, third and fourth innings, only getting out of further damage with clutch pitches at the right time.

After a mild threat in the fifth, the Red Knights erased a 3-0 deficit with one swing, with Peyton Bourque bashing a bases-loaded double that tied the game in the sixth inning.

Unfortunately, just like the softball team did only a few yards away, North allowed a walk-off RBI single in the seventh inning by Donnie Goodman, giving Mariner a 4-3 win.

"They gave us plenty of opportunities, but their three-hole killed us (Alex Freeland, who had a double and triple for Mariner)," Rose said. "We couldn't field easy bunts and we gave them a run at the plate. Mariner played better than us tonight."

North regained some of its momentum with a 7-5 victory over Oasis, but then lost again to Mariner by a score of 7-3 on Friday.

North has been a team that can say "As Peyton Bourque goes, so go the Red Knights." After throwing two one-hitters early in the year, the senior has struggled early in games. Still he leads the team in strikeouts and kept his ERA under 3.00.

"If he can push through the first couple innings, he usually cruises. We're trying to get him to fix his mentality early," Rose said.

At the plate Bourque has also shined with a .375 average while leading the team with 20 RBI.

The top players on the team are all seniors and they have helped keep North battling. Nick Roch is batting .464 and leads the team with 26 hits. Catcher Bryce Adkins has both the team's home runs, and Jake Park is also batting over .300.

"We have a whole team. We're not one or two guys. Peyton has helped us, but we've found some arms who can replace Peyton and will come back next year," Rose said.

It's going to take all of them if the Red Knights hope to record their first winning season since 2006. It all starts with attitude and changing it.

"My culture change is rebounding from negatives. We make an error and the kids collapse themselves. We're teaching them to show character and class, and they've come a long way," Rose said.

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