Spruill is Vikings sparkplug|Starting pitcher won conference’s Player of the Year award

Published 5:59 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Staff Writer

For Eli Spruill, all the hard work put in before and during his junior season with the Plymouth baseball team really did pay off.
Spruill’s superb season on the mound, at the plate and in the hole earned him accolades aplenty. He was named the Albemarle Conference Player of the Year, earned all-state and all-conference recognition and was honored as his team’s Most Valuable Player.
Now he can add one more award to his collection as the Daily News’ baseball Player of the Year.
Spruill, 17, hit a ridiculous .590 on the season with only five strikeouts. On the mound, he dialed in 68 strikeouts. He issued a measly 34 walks for a walk to strikeout ratio of 2:1.
And Spruill’s spectacular pitching stats came with limited duty on the rubber during the first half of the season when he saw most of his action at shortstop.
Self-described as determined, Spruill told his head coach, Terry Perry, that he was ready to become the ace of the team.
“I actually told him one day, ‘Coach, put me on the mound because I feel like I can get the job done.’”
And he did.
Spruill led the Vikings pitching staff with a 9-2 record, and carried the team to the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class-1A state playoffs.
The solid shortstop turned pitcher has never been a slouch at the plate either. Before batting almost .600 on the year in 2009, Spruill batted a more-than-respectable .385 his sophomore season.
Spruill said his drastic improvement at the plate was thanks to his coaches and baseball camp instructors.
“I think it was mostly the coaching,” he said.
Spruill’s father, Sam, has been an assistant coach with the Vikings baseball team since Eli started playing ball for Plymouth.
According to Eli’s grandfather, Ray, the youngest Spruill gets his never-die attitude from his father.
“I’ll tell you one thing — he works hard,” Ray said.
The Vikings coaches try to instill such a tough mentality in their players.
“They work. Everyone on that team works,” Sam said. “The good thing is they want to come out and get better.”
Sam said that he and Coach Perry have adopted such a hard-nosed work ethic to counteract the Vikings’ limited capabilities — namely the small crop of players the team has to choose from.
“We have to out work everybody. That’s the only way we’re going to win,” the elder Spruill said. “They know that coming in.”
The youngest Spruill said he was hoping to have a good year with all the hard work put in, but never dreamed of all the awards he would get.
“I really wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “There are a lot of other good players out there.”