When you talk about the Hilton Head Island High School baseball team's senior pitching, it might be easy to lump in Mat Clark.
The sophomore has been part of the Seahawks' rotation since his eighth-grade year. And he carries himself like a senior, coach Blair Carson said.
It's little wonder then that Carson, starting his first full year as Hilton Head High head coach, is encouraged by the Seahawks' pitching as the team prepares for another run at the Class 3-A playoffs.
Seniors Ryan Cherry and Andrew Dill add depth behind the younger left-hander, who showed off his control Monday during Hilton Head High's 7-2 victory at Battery Creek to open the season.
"He knows that to expect and expects a lot out of himself," Carson said. "That's a big part of it."
Clark began tinkering with a cut fastball toward the end of his freshman season, during which he struck out 61 and walked only three. He worked on the pitch with Carson during the offseason and has been throwing the cutter 10 to 15 times during bullpen sessions during the preseason.
He wants the pitch among his top two, to be confident throwing it at any point in the count. He favored the cutter and his regular fastball Monday more than the curveball.
He struck out nine Dolphins during his four innings and walked none.
"I felt a little shaky starting it off," Clark said. "It got a little better as the game went on. The fastball got up there in velocity a little more, and I was able to locate a little better."
The Seahawks are comfortable now with Carson, who led Hilton Head High to a share of the Region 8-AAA title and a Class 3-A playoff berth as interim coach last season following the resignation of longtime coach Chris Wells.
Carson said pitching and defense should lead the way with this group, with senior catcher Brandon Johnson calling pitches for an experienced group. Senior third baseman Michael Perez will make calls in the field, Carson said.
Hilton Head High (1-0) slowly pulled away from the Dolphins with a run in four consecutive innings before a three-run sixth inning provided a comfortable margin. Dill doubled and drove in three runs to help lead the Seahawks, who chipped away at senior Battery Creek pitcher Zach Mahan before chasing him in the sixth.
Battery Creek coach Shawn Morrison noted that he is a left-hander and that the Dolphins see the left-handed motion all the time in practice. He commended Clark, who struck out 15 when the teams faced the previous March.
"He's got good command of the strike zone and pitches intelligently," Morrison said. "It's always tough with those two things."
Morrison believes he will have pitching depth but is concerned about the lack of experience. His planned No. 2, Aaron Brantley, threw 10 innings as a freshman last year. Sophomore Henry Schubert, who relieved Mahan on Monday, pitched only a couple innings during the playoffs last year.
William Howell scored for the Dolphins in the third after reaching on an error, and Brantley walked and scored during the sixth inning. Both Battery Creek runs were unearned.
Morrison told his team to be ready Wednesday for Class 4-A Fort Dorchester, which he expects to throw its ace.
"We have the talent," Morrison said. "Hopefully we build and get better throughout the season, so that our moment comes when it's most important."
Hilton Head Island High 7, Battery Creek 2
Hilton Head Island High 011 113 0 -- 7 13 3
Battery Creek 001 001 0 -- 2 3 4
WP: Mat Clark 4 IP, 9 K, 2 H, 0 BB
LP: Zach Mahan 5+ IP, 10 H, 3 K
Top hitters: Hilton Head Island High -- Andrew Dill 2 for 3, BB, 3 RBI; Matt Rozelle 2 for 3, RBI, BB, R; Dillon Heffner 3 for 5, 2B, R. Battery Creek -- Henry Schubert 2 for 3, 2B.
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.