Prep Signing: East Rowan's Hathcock to Lenoir-Rhyne
By Mike London
SALISBURY — East Rowan graduate Chase Hathcock smiles and offers a one-word explanation regarding his opportunity to continue his baseball career at Lenoir-Rhyne.
Well, actually it’s a one-name explanation.
“Hightower,” Hathcock said. “Credit Hightower.”
Whether you’re a fan of East coach Brian Hightower or not, give him credit not only for building teams that win games (168 in eight seasons) but for finding schools for his players at the next level.
Not just the great players that everyone wants, but the good ones like Hathcock will usually get a chance to turn all those hours they’ve spent on baseball into a partial payment for a college education.
“If you want to be a player, as hard as we work at it, you’ll get better and you’ll get faster and stronger,” Hightower said. “It’s not like we get all our guys to D-I schools, but we do get a lot of them somewhere.”
At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Hathcock is just a normal guy, but he has exceptionally sure hands at second base and a nice, right-handed swing. That was enough for Hightower to get him a look in late April.
“He called the coach at Lenoir-Rhyne (Paul Knight) and they came and watched us play at South Rowan,” Hathcock said. “I happened to get a couple of hits that night, and that’s where it started.”
One of those hits was very nearly an inside-the-park home run. Hathcock drove a ball deep to the opposite field and got credit for a triple, but he was nailed at the plate.
Hathcock did hit one homer over the fence this season — at Staton Field against Nova, Fla., a team that finished 26-2.
Hathcock was a .261 hitter as a junior, but he pushed his batting average up to .337 as a senior and was All-Rowan County and All-NPC.
He hit safely in 20 of East’s 25 games and his 28 hits tied him for the team lead with Nathan Fulbright.
Hathcock’s .337 average, when you consider the switch to BBCOR bats and East’s killer non-conference schedule, wasn’t bad at all, but his defense was even better.
Groundballs to Hathcock were automatic outs — and sometimes two. He was charged with one error during the high school season. He didn’t make an error at Staton Field all spring and he didn’t make a miscue on any field in his last 20 games.
“That’s just from taking an awful lot of groundballs — hundred of ’em,” Hathcock said. “Put in the hard work and you can be a good fielder.”
Hathcock also helped make himself recruitable by handling the classroom as smoothly as a one-hopper. He has a 3.7 GPA. That helped Lenoir-Rhyne find academic scholarship money for him.
This summer Hathcock has been a fixture in the Rowan County American Legion lineup as the second baseman and No. 8 hitter and has performed steadily in both roles.
So there’s a reasonable chance he can help a Lenoir-Rhyne team that struggled in 2012 to a 12-37 record.
“Chase is a decent hitter and a great fielder and he’ll keep growing,” Hightower said. “He’s got an opportunity. I think he’ll run with it.”
Hathcock is excited. He’s one of those guys who stays busy hitting baseballs even when he’s not playing or practicing with the Legion team.
“I love the game, but I understand baseball is going to end someday,” Hathcock said. “I know it probably ends for me with college, but I want to play just as long as I can.”