By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — The floor of Matt LePoint’s closet is littered with activities of summers past.
A bowling ball, keyboard, video games and soccer ball are evidence the Port Charlotte High School pitcher likes to take up new hobbies to keep busy between baseball seasons.
This year’s new experience: learning to play the guitar.
“It’s something to do while I’m sitting there,” LePoint said. “It’s just kind of a new thing to do. I like the sound of it, and I’m teaching myself how to play.”
Although there aren’t many similarities in technique between playing the guitar and baseball, LePoint equates the development of skill between the two.
“There are things in baseball that take time to learn,” LePoint said. “Learning guitar is definitely like that. It’s sort of like learning a new pitch in a way. It gradually gets better until it gets close to perfect every time.”
LePoint has spent plenty of time learning a new pitch. He can deliver his fastball with pinpoint accuracy, has a curveball that falls off the table, and also throws a slider and is working on a changeup.
He used those four pitches this year to excel as one of the area’s most dominant arms to head the Sun’s All-Area baseball team as player of the year.
“He and I just became Facebook friends yesterday,” said new Port Charlotte head coach Johnnie Kirkland, who was hired just last week. “I haven’t met him personally yet, but I’m excited to meet him, and the rest of the players and staff. I don’t really know much about him, but I’m excited to come work with those guys.”
As a junior, LePoint compiled a 6-2 record, and accounted for 54 percent of the Pirates’ wins in 2016. Three of those wins required him to the distance, and he had a 1.85 earned run average in 60.2 innings pitched.
LePoint surrendered two or fewer runs in seven of his 10 starts, allowed only five extra base hits all season, and struck out 55.
LePoint saved some of his best performances for district matchups. His best start came against Island coast in a complete-game, one-hit, 7-0 shutout.
He shined again in a tough test against Ida Baker in his regular season finale. LePoint held the district’s best team to a run, which was enough for the Pirates in a 2-1 victory, in which he went seven innings, allowed six hits, and struck out seven.
“Personally, for me, it went pretty well,” LePoint said of his season. “Team-wise, it went pretty well, but there was a lot of drama. We pretty much pulled it together at the end of the year. I think it showed our team had a lot of character.”
The “drama” LePoint mentioned had to do with head coach Bryan Beisner’s resignation with six games remaining in the regular season. A few teammates quit the program, and the team was in turmoil.
“I’m not going to lie, I was very upset,” LePoint said. “He was a big part of my high school career. Our seniors definitely stepped up. They got the younger guys, including me, to pretty much realize we have a job to do.”
LePoint didn’t let the outside noise affect his game. That start against Ida Baker was just three days after Beisner resigned.
“He handled it better than I thought he would,” LePoint’s dad, Mike, said. “He was pretty upset by the whole thing, actually. He didn’t let it rattle him too much. He usually lets that kind of stuff effect him.”
He won each of his final two starts after Beisner resigned, including a first-round district tournament game. LePoint didn’t necessarily have his best stuff in that last outing, but his teammates stepped up in 5-4 win to advance.
Charlotte • Senior • RHP
Struck out 40 batters in 40 innings pitched, while boasting a 1.50 ERA with a 6-2 record.
North Port • Senior • LHP
Racked up 64 innings pitched with a 4-5 record in 11 starts. Uecker struck out 69 and allowed just 15 walks.
Charlotte • Freshman • C
Had an impressive freshman year, batting .333, while also controlling the Charlotte pitching staff. Martins drove in 18 runs to go along with six extra base hits and six walks.
Port Charlotte • Freshman • C/3B
Played in 26 games while batting .303 and leading the Pirates with 17 RBI and eight extra base hits.
Lemon Bay • Senior • 1B
Hit three home runs and drove in 28 runs. Pellicciotti displayed a strong presence in the box with a .391 average and .500 on-base percentage.
Lemon Bay • Junior • 3B/RHP
Was one of the best fielders, hitters and pitchers in the area. He had a .457 batting average with 27 RBI. He also struck out 69 batters over 49 innings pitched with a 1.28 ERA.
Port Charlotte • Senior • SS/3B
Had team highs with a .316 average, seven stolen bases, and 15 runs scored. Little also had five extra base hits and 11 RBI.
Lemon Bay • Senior • OF/LHP
Did it all for the Manta Rays with a .371 average and 22 RBI. He also was one of their best pitchers, with a 2.24 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 43 innings.
North Port • Sophomore • OF
Hit .402 with 11 extra base hits, and scored a team-high 27 runs. Davidson committed just one error as one of the top center fielders in the area.
North Port • Junior • OF
Played all over the field for the Bobcats. He had a .484 on-base percentage to go with 16 RBI and 19 runs scored.
Charlotte: Kyle Machado (P), Ethan Vaughn (1B), Shane LeMaster (SS), James Barnes (OF) Garrett Dunson (2B)
Lemon Bay: Warnner Rincones (2B/SS), Matt Molinari (C)
North Port: Dalytn Smith (1B), Justin Hartshorne (SS), Nathan Vetter (C)
Port Charlotte: Christian Faldetta (SS), Matt Intihar (OF)