Maples Masterful in Title Game Victory
Sometimes being at the bottom of a big pile can be like being on top of the world. One person who can attest to that is Dillon Maples of West End.
The rising Pinecrest junior pitched a no-hitter, leading the North Hurricanes baseball team to a 6-0 victory over the Florida Mustangs in the World Wood Bat Association 16 and Under National Championship game.
The title contest was played on Monday afternoon in East Cobb, Ga., winding up a week-long tournament that began with 174 teams from all over this country and Canada.
As Maples fanned the final batter on a pitch in the dirt, he saw what was about to happen out of the corner of his eye.
It would be a scene that commonly follows no-hitters, an accomplishment heightened this time by its occurrence in a championship game.
"I remember, the count was 0-2," he said before taking batting practice at Pinecrest for a summer league game on Wednesday.
"I snapped a curve ball off in the dirt and my catcher lobbed it down to first. When he caught it, I looked over to the dugout. I just got smeared and tackled to the ground with all of my teammates on top of me."
Maples, whose fastball was clocked at between 89 and 92 miles per hour throughout the game, got all of the runs he needed on a two-run first inning homer by Luke Dunlap of East Forsyth. Before numerous college and professional scouts, the right-hander went on to strike out 10 batters, while walking three and hitting two.
The early lead was one of the things that helped him relax in perhaps the biggest game of his young baseball career.
"You just have to take it like any other game," he said.
"In the first inning, I struck the first batter out, and after that I kind of got into a good rhythm. It was smooth sailing from there. The 16 team had a lot of offense so I didn't have to worry about pitching a perfect game."
The Hurricanes Baseball Club recruits players from North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland with the goal of developing them to play at the collegiate level. Bryce Owen, a rising Pinecrest sophomore from Aberdeen, and Justin Allred, a rising Union Pines soph from Carthage, are members of 15 and under Hurricanes squads.
A week earlier, Maples played for the Canes 17 and under team that went 5-0 in pool play in East Cobb before falling in the playoff rounds. Including the South Hurricanes team that also competed in the 16 and under tournament, the three teams from the club were a combined 13-1-1 in pool play.
The son of Tim and Tracy Maples, Maples earned All-Mid-Southeastern Conference honors in baseball and football at Pinecrest this past school year.
As a pitcher he compiled a record of 3-1, striking out 72 batters in 35 innings. He batted .355 as the team's starting shortstop.
"On the stage of stages, Dillon performed well," Pinecrest coach Jeff Hewitt said Wednesday.
"We're really excited about his accomplishment."
Following Monday's finale, Maples and Hurricanes teammate Jake Cave of Hampton, Va., were named Co-Most Valuable Pitchers of the tournament. Soon the organization that operates the championships will be selecting age-group All-American teams.
"It would be a big honor, I'd say, to be named an AFLAC All-American," the Pinecrest star said.
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