Prep County Baseball: The team
By Mike London
SALISBURY — North Rowan’s Wesley Barker will be traveling the longest distance to continue his playing career of any of the county’s senior standouts.
Barker will wear a Choctaws uniform next spring, and his biggest rival will be Millsaps. He’ll be suiting up for Division III Mississippi College, the oldest institution of higher learning in the state.
Coach Jim Gantt would be thrilled to have Barker on the Rowan Legion team this summer and at Catawba in the fall, but Barker will stick close to his family and will head south next week.
Wesley’s father, Brent, accepted the pastoral position of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Grenada, Miss., in November, and Wesley will attend college 100 or so miles south of Grenada in the town of Clinton, a next-door-neighbor of Jackson.
Mississippi College has produced two NFL players, along with Olympic jumper Larry Myricks, so it’s been the home for a few athletes.
Barker had a tremendous senior season for North and was one of five players in the county considered for player of the year honors.
The catalyst for North’s offense, he was one of the state leaders in runs scored with 48, while batting .457. As a junior, he batted .461 with 36 runs.
Barker played catcher and shortstop for the Cavaliers as a senior before taking charge at third base, and he was outstanding at the hot corner.
Barker will catch in college. Coaches agree that’s his best position.
“He was one of the best catchers around, but he changed positions without saying a word because he knew it would help our team,” North coach Aaron Rimer said. “He had a fantastic season for us.”
Barker is one of nine repeaters on this year’s all-county team. The team includes seven from East, five from North, four from Salisbury and Carson, three from South and two from West.
Seventeen are seniors, five are juniors, and three are sophomores.
The number of all-county players allotted to each team is determined by the Post staff. Coaches have a say on which of their players make the cut, and there were tough calls for them to make.
Philip Tonseth, SHS, Sr., P-OF
Tonseth was among the most productive hitters in the county (.432, 33 RBIs), while also serving as his team’s ace pitcher. The Rowan County Player of the Year also made all-county in 2010. Tonseth will play at Army.
Luke Thomas, East, Sr., C
The Wingate signee was the top RBI man for the Mustangs with 28 and led the team with a .427 batting average and .524 on-base percentage. Also excelled defensively and handling pitchers.
Joseph Basinger, Carson, Sr., C
Physically, he’s a man, and he provided power (five homers, 28 RBIs, .407 BA) as the Cougars’ cleanup hitter and a strong defensive presence behind the plate.
Basinger was streaky, but when he was going well, you didn’t want to pitch to him.
Wes Barker, North, Sr., 3B
Barker, who can literally play anywhere on the field, pounded 17 extra-base hits and stole 15 bases.
Matt Mauldin, North, Sr., LF
Another All-Rowan repeater, Mauldin led the county in three categories with 48 hits, 41 RBIs and a .522 batting average. His speed led to 12 doubles and 14 steals.
Still uncommitted, he’s considering SAC schools.
Andy Austin, East, Jr., 1B
It didn’t seem like Austin had a super year until you looked at the final numbers.
He’s just tremendously consistent — always 1-for-3 or 2-for-4. The lefty hitter batted .410 with some power, stole 10 bases and played Gold Glove-quality first base.
Already a two-time all-county pick, he’s the early favorite for the 2012 Player of the Year honor.
Bradley Robbins, East, Jr., P
The county’s dominant starting pitcher, Robbins put up fantastic numbers, including a 10-1 record, a 1.01 ERA and a county-leading 88 strikeouts. The right-hander is the winner of the inaugural Patrick Snider Award as the county’s top hurler.
Josh Martin, Carson, So., P-3B
Not everyone knows about Martin yet, but he’s an impressive two-way talent who shut out a strong Mount Pleasant team in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
Martin’s 18 RBIs and .397 batting average ranked second on the Carson club, and he also was 5-3 with a 2.62 ERA on the mound.
Matt Laurens, North, Sr., P-RF
Laurens, a two-way force for the Cavaliers, had four homers and 25 RBIs as North’s right fielder and was 6-1 on the mound with a 2.58 ERA. The late-blooming lefty takes a lot of tools to Catawba. He has height, speed, bat speed and a strong arm.
Matt Miller, South, Jr., P-LF
Yet another two-way guy, Miller turned in the strongest season of all the Raiders, batting .333 with four homers and going 4-4 with a .286 ERA on the hill, while drawing the toughest assignments.
Justin Morris, East, Sr., SS-P
The hustling Morris made East’s offense go (.451 OBP, 32 runs), and he made only five errors defensively.
He would’ve been all-county even if he hadn’t enjoyed surprising pitching success late in the season. He had an 0.43 ERA with one walk in 161/3 innings.
Will Johnson, East, Sr., P
The mostly unhittable lefty reliever (1.14 ERA, seven saves) is headed to Catawba after another banner season and his second all-county honor. It’s not easy for a reliever to make all-county, but Johnson was a no-brainer.
John Knox, SHS, Sr., 2B
More than one coach said Knox made the best defensive play they’d seen all year when they faced the Hornets, and he also contributed a team-best 28 runs, tied for second on the team with 20 RBIs and batted .351.
An all-county repeater, he’ll be a football QB in college.
Dakota Brown, North, SS-P
A four-year starter, he put up a tremendous offensive season (46 hits, 40 runs, .447 BA, 15 steals) while handling a key defensive position and closing several games on the mound.
Will Sapp, East, Sr., CF
After earning MVP honors in the 2010 3A championship series, Sapp didn’t have a huge offensive season as a senior, but he still scored a team-best 35 runs while batting .337.
The all-county repeater’s defense — range and arm — were huge assets in center field. Headed to Wingate as a walk-on, but he could be a surprise for the Bulldogs.
Gunnar Hogan, Carson, Sr., SS
Definitely the dean of the team. Hogan was a freshman standout when the county still had players such as Justin Roland and Trey Holmes in uniform, and he’s all-county for the fourth consecutive season.
Hogan had a .486 on-base percentage as Carson’s No. 3 hitter and played solid shortstop. Headed to Catawba.
Madison Osborne, West, Sr., 1B
In a tough year in which it would’ve been very easy to pack it in, Osborne never stopped hitting. He batted a team-best .420 as the Falcons’ No. 3 hitter and also made the All-NPC squad.
Kyle Youngo, Carson, Sr., 2B
After waiting patiently for a chance to play, Youngo was one of the surprises of the season in his first year as a starter. He batted .344 with a team-best 26 runs scored and was close to flawless at second base.
Scott Van der Poel, SHS, Jr., LF
Not a household name yet, but he went a smoldering 15-for-23 in his last eight games to finish with a team-best .463 batting average.
Van der Poel scored 25 runs and is a good outfielder.
Brian Bauk, SHS, So., CF-P
Bauk is an exciting, young talent, who helped the Hornets in a lot of ways. He won four games on the mound while batting .353 and scored 23 runs as the leadoff man.
Eric Tyler, South, So. C
Tyler batted .358 with 14 RBIs while demonstrating strong receiving skills and a lot of leadership for a sophomore.
Should be one of the county’s stars the next two years.
Alex Morgan, North, Jr., C
Morgan was the county’s hottest hitter early, and while he eventually cooled off bit, he still finished with great offensive numbers — 40 runs, 36 RBIs, .422 BA, .523 OBP.
Avery Rogers, East, Sr., 3B
Besides turning in Gold Glove work at third, the strong-armed Rogers knocked in 21 runs and batted .342 in his first season as a starter. He’s headed to Guilford, where his arm likely will make him a pitcher.
Preston Penninger, SR, Sr., P-1B
Another two-way player, Penninger led South with 19 RBIs, tied for the team lead in homers with four and won twice on the mound while walking only seven batters in 372/3 innings.
Chandler Jones, West, Sr., 3B
Jones provided power in the middle of the lineup for the Falcons, including a memorable homer against South Rowan in his final home at-bat.
He hit .370 for the season.