Today we traveled to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina to sit down with first year head coach Brian Lackey. Lackey looks to guide the First Flight High School Nighthawks to new heights in 2023.. Find out more about the club below..
What’s one thing most people on the outside of the program don’t about the tradition of First Flight Baseball?
First of all, I’m just the third head coach at First Flight High School. I’ve got some big shoes to fill when we talk about Coach Ray Scott and Coach Steve Saunders. I think something that a lot of people may not know is that Coach Scott and Coach Saunders have helped send quite a few guys to the next level. One of my assistants is one of those who Coach Scott helped get to the college level. Just from last year’s team, Coach Saunders had three sign to play in college and one commit as a Junior. Kill Devil Hills is a place where kids have grown up loving the game and end up being good players when they get to the high school level, and many of them have the opportunity to play at the next level.
Looking at the 2023 Nighthawks – What’s the strength of this year club?
The 2023 Nighthawks are young, but have a lot of upside. We have a Junior RHP (Isaac Miles) who is going to be a mid-to-upper 80s arm that will get up in the low 9s occasionally. We also have a Sophomore RHP (Riley Gibson) who is very raw on the mound, but has been up to 89. These two didn’t get much, if any, time on the mound last year as the FFHS staff was solid. More experience is going to benefit both of these guys and raise their ceilings a ton.
Offensively, I believe we’re going to have some juice at the plate 1-5 or 6. We will have guys who can handle the bat and put together competitive at-bats.
What’s one area you really focused on this off-season with your team?
Base-running is something we have really paid attention to. I think the team who can take 90 feet the most is the team that puts itself in the best position to win games. The biggest thing we focused on is culture. Trying to create a culture where guys are caught up more in the team than their own success I think has been huge. That doesn’t change overnight, but I feel good about the direction that we’re heading.
First Flight’s conference is tough, talk about the competition every night playing?
It’s obviously going to be a learning experience as we go to see how each club is. I do know that we will see some teams with good arms and guys who swing it well. I think the important thing for us is to understand that we have a chance to be in, and win, every game that we play. Again, we’re a very young club so getting everyone to understand the importance of competing to win every pitch is something that we’ve been pushing all offseason.
What’s your prediction for the 2023 Nighthawks?
The only prediction I have right now is that the 2023 Hawks are going to surprise a lot of people. There are four guys returning who have Varsity experience. We lost the majority of innings on the mound and pretty much the entire starting lineup from last year. That’s the beauty of high school sports. There’s a huge question mark on our program. A totally new coaching staff and basically an entirely new roster are the obvious reasons for that question mark. The guys are loving it and are looking to make a statement this year. It’s going to be fun!
When you first took over the First Flight program, what’s one thing you know now that you didn’t know then?
I knew I had a super supportive Administration and Athletic Director at FFHS, but I didn’t know they would be as hardcore as they are. Our Principal, Mr. Lansing, spent a lot of time in athletics with a mentor of mine, Danny Hignight, at Providence High School so the expectations are high, but so is his support. Our Athletic Director, Chad Williams, is one of the best basketball coaches I’ve ever been around and he competes for championships, it seems like, every year. His expectations are the same for baseball. He’s also been super supportive of us. I was told the parents of our players were excited about baseball and wanted to help any way they could. That statement has been 100% true. Our parents have been awesome and super supportive of what we’re about. They’re doing it for the right reasons, which isn’t always the case. I know that’s not really baseball related, but it’s important that I give credit where it’s due.
Being from Western, North Carolina and now in the Outer Banks – What’s the biggest difference you see coming to the eastern part of the state as far as baseball?
Coming from Western, NC, the desire for development is something that I’m used to. Spending 10 years at the high school level with the legendary Pete Hardee at Watauga and Alexander Central, I got used to having guys waiting in line to get to offseason workouts. We would have over 20 guys at offseason workouts. That’s been my biggest challenge here so far. After talking to other coaches in the area, that’s also a challenge for them. My goal moving forward is to get guys to understand the importance of being here in the offseason to develop, to build the culture, and to actually be able to run practices so that when we get to February, we hit the ground running. I’ve also never had to worry about that big salt water swimming pool right across the street from school! I think we’re on the right track where guys are starting to buy into that and will see the importance of it once we get rolling. Again, we’re young, and a lot of these guys have never had to worry about that.
Below I’m going to list adjectives, list the player on the 2023 roster who it describes:
Leader: Isaac Miles
Gamer: Gabe Kelly
Hitterish: Riley Gibson
Bulldog: Everest Ouellette
Selfless: Aaron Stewart
Competitor: Jordan Kempton
Stay tuned for more exciting article ahead…