CHARLIE BERGMANN: Baseball Players Take Skills to The Next Level
Commentary on this story on Tuesday's Headlines Podcast .
Fall workouts and intra-squad games are an important time for freshmen college baseball players like Eric Shinn of Pinehurst.
The former Pinecrest all-conference and all-region pitcher-catcher was one of the Ohio State newcomers that reported to Buckeye coach Bob Todd last month.
Ten former Patriot players in all are currently vying for spots at the next level including freshmen Derek Kirk (Methodist), Ryan Summerford (Rockingham Community College) and Bruce Koenig (Louisburg College).
Players coming back for another year include Michael Messana (Florida Tech), Taylor Norfleet (Francis Marion), Eric Marion (High Point) and Brad Davis (Methodist).
Tyler Wolfe (Greensboro College) and Ryan Foreman (UNC-Wilmington) are players that had been away from baseball for a year.
All of this provides a lot of satisfaction to Pinecrest coach Jeff Hewitt who has spent a lot of time on the phone this fall, checking on the progress of his former players.
"One of my goals when I got here was to see how many kids we could have playing college baseball," said Hewitt, an all-conference pitcher at East Carolina in his playing days. "It not only gets them playing at the next level, but helps them get some money for college. It's not for me, I've been there, done that. It's for the kids and their parents. When they come out of college, they're ready for life."
How time flies.
It's hard to believe that former Pinecrest pitcher Stuart Richardson was a May graduate from Wingate. He was a left-handed relief specialist for the Bulldogs for four years.
Reached in Charlotte this week, he serves as a youth minister at a church in Monroe, and is taking courses online from the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va.
"It took a lot of wear and tear on my body," Richardson said of the college baseball grind. "But I really enjoyed the college experience."
Messina, an outfielder at Florida Tech, is slated to be the next one to complete four years. In addition to enjoying the college baseball experience, he's closing in on a degree in Civil Engineering.
Heading the collegians from the Pinecrest graduating class of 2005 is Norfleet. The former all-state player of the Patriots was one of the leading cleanup hitters in the Peach Belt Conference for Francis Marion. He batted .322, knocked in 53 runs and was voted the conference freshman of the year.
Davis took over in right field for Methodist at the start of a streak of 14 wins in 15 games last spring and batted .309 for the season. Marion begins his sophomore season at High Point where he was a reserve infielder last spring.
Hewitt got a couple of pleasant surprises when he learned that Wolfe, a 2001 grad, and Foreman, another member of the 2005 team, are back in baseball.
Wolfe and Greensboro College football star Torrey Lowe began their college careers as baseball players at Pitt Community College four years ago.
Wolfe recently entered the Division III school as a junior. Greensboro College assistant coach Andy Fleischacker projects Wolfe to be the starting shortstop for the Pride.
"The thing that's been most impressive," Fleischacker said by phone recently, "is Tyler's defense. He's definitely a Division I caliber shortstop."
An outfielder and a good left-handed hitter at Pinecrest, Foreman did not play baseball during his freshman year at UNC-Wilmington. During the fall he was converted to a catcher and Hewitt says the Seahawk coaches like him.
Hewitt has also gotten good reports on the other new collegians that were members of the 2006 Pinecrest squad that tied Scotland County for the conference championship.
Shinn has been performing as a pitcher for the Buckeyes this fall after compiling a two-year record of 13-5 for Pinecrest, including a no-hitter against Union Pines in his junior year. His brother, Brad, who played shortstop and pitched at Pinecrest, has been playing for the UNC club team.
Hewitt described Eric Shinn as a coach on the field when he served as the Patriot catcher.
"Eric played a big role for us because he was in our program for four years," Hewitt said. "He's very intelligent. He basically knew what I was going to do before I did it. Because he was a pitcher himself, he knew how to talk to the pitchers on our staff."
Kirk, a third baseman for the Patriots, has been converted to a first baseman at Methodist. He hit a home run in the Monarchs' intra-squad game that ended the fall season.
Summerford, who Hewitt calls the best fielding first baseman he has had in his seven years at Pinecrest, is working out at that position at Rockingham Community College.
Charlie Bergmann is a sports writer at The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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