Prep Baseball: Player of the Year White leads All-Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 25, 2017

By Mike London

SALISBURY — OPS is a super stat, as it provides a true reading of how productive a hitter is.

OPS is calculated by adding on-base percentage to slugging percentage. That gives us a number that measures not only how frequently a player gets on base, but also whether he produces extra-base hits. Not many high school guys belt homers or triples, but doubles are really important. They often drive someone in. At the very least, a double puts a runner in scoring position.

A number in the .700s is considered a decent OPS, while .800s are excellent. The .800 guys are usually household names, people like East’s John Owen (.839) and West’s Brandon Walton (.858). There’s a reason Owen and Walton bat fourth and fifth in the lineup for the Rowan County American Legion team.

An OPS above .900 is great. That’s serious raking.

An OPS above 1.000 is borderline insane. There were five 1.000 OPS players in the majors entering Saturday’s games, led by New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge (1.123). Babe Ruth was a 1.164 OPS guy for his career, and he’s No. 1 all-time. Ted Williams (1.116) is second. Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds are next.

Which brings us to Carson junior Owen White. White’s OPS in 2017 was so outrageous and so orderly — 1.234, that it’s almost like he planned it. White batted .473 (43-for-91), with 12 doubles, a triple, two homers, 14 walks and one hit-by-pitch. He scored 24 runs and drove in 22, and he was pitched around a lot because coaches aren’t fools. He was a .473 hitter on a team where the rest of the lineup cumulatively batted .252.

East shortstop Chandler Blackwelder put up an tremendous OPS of 1.175, and he added 20 steals that weren’t measured by OPS. North outfielder Henderson Lentz batted  a county-best.475, and while his OPS wasn’t available, it certainly had to be north of 1.000.

Still, it’s hard to make an argument that White wasn’t the county’s best hitter. And there’s no doubt that he was the best shortstop (three errors, 10 double plays).

So even if he never threw a pitch, White would have been a solid choice as the Post’s Rowan County Player of the Year.

But he did pitch. Actually, pitching is what he does best of all. He was 8-1 with an 0.33 ERA. He had four complete games, two shutouts and one no-hitter. In 64 innings, he struck out 94 and walked 14. He was undefeated in March, April and May. In 14 innings against South Piedmont Conference champ West Rowan, a team that made the fourth round of the 3A playoffs, he fanned 29 while allowing seven hits and no runs.

When you throw in his dazzling pitching numbers, White, who mixes low-90s fastballs with a wicked curve and changeup, was an easy POY choice. It was easy even in a county that includes Blackwelder, Owen, Lentz and West’s UNC-bound, two-way player Austin Love.

“On top of the stats, Owen was a great leader by example,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “Practice or games, he goes hard, doing all the little things right.”

White will receive the Mark Norris Memorial Award that has been provided since 1978 by the Norris family in Mark’s memory. A baseball player at Salisbury High, Mark was killed in an accident during his freshman year of college. White accepted the award, the 40th given by the Norris family, with grace.

“There are a lot of really good players in this county, and they pushed me to do my best,” White said. “But mostly I thank my coaches and teammates. I’m lucky to have them. Without them, none of this would be possible.”

White has committed to the University of South Carolina and was recently named the 3A Player of the Year for North Carolina by the state’s coaches. Assuming good health, he’ll probably enter the 2018 season as the state’s top high school prospect and one of the nation’s elite 25.

“(First baseman) Ben Shoaf’s father prayed for us before every game, and I ‘m sure that’s one of the reasons I’ve been so blessed this year,” White said. “I’m thankful every day for the ability I have, and I try to use it in the right way.”

Ideally, the All-Rowan County team is done by position, but that wasn’t possible this time. It was the year of the pitcher and the year of the two-way player, with the county’s top talent lumped on the mound and at shortstop. Eleven of the county’s best players pitched frequently. Recommendations by coaches and all-conference teams factored into the Post’s selections. The 17-team man first team has unusually even distribution from the six schools, with three each from West, East, Carson, South and Salisbury, and two from North.

All-Rowan County First Team

Owen White, Carson Jr. P/SS —South Piedmont Conference Pitcher of the Year, already holds school records for career strikeouts and doubles

Maddux Holshouser, Carson Jr. P  — All-SPC, 6-3 with a 1.96 ERA and won his last four decisions.

Ben Shoaf, Carson Sr. 1B — All-SPC, 18 RBIs, team leader

Chandler Blackwelder, East Sr. SS — All-SPC, 432, 12 doubles, 20 steals, 19 RBIs, UNC Pembroke signee

John Owen, East Sr. P/Ut. — All-SPC, 5-1 on the mound, drove in 19 runs, played all over the diamond, signed with Pitt County CC

Hayden Setzer, East Jr. P/1B —  7-2 with 1.30 ERA on the mound, .974 OPS at the plate, walked 21 times

Austin Chrismon, South Sr. 2B — All-SPC, 31 hits, including two doubles in a game off Owen White,  headed to UNC for football but might have been county’s most improved hitter

Tyler Shepherd, South. Jr. SS/P — All-SPC, 3-1 on the mound, socked two homers in win vs. Salisbury, hit three-run blast in SPC tourney vs. East Rowan

Walker Joyce, South Sr. P/OF — All-SPC, 8-1 season on the mound included a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts against Central Cabarrus, led offense with 3 hits in win vs. Robinson

Trevor Atwood, West Sr. C — All-SPC, .967 OPS with team-high 24 RBIs, signed with Catawba

Brandon Walton, West Sr. IF/P — All-SPC, .858 OPS and 16 RBIs, 19 strikeouts in nine flame-throwing relief innings, signed with Mars Hill

Austin Love, West Sr. P/IF — All-SPC, 6-2 with 0.79 ERA and 67 strikeouts, plus 21 RBIs

Joe Harrison, North Sr. P/OF — Central Carolina Conference Pitcher of the Year, ERA of 1.28 in 60 innings, 91 strikeouts and 17 walks

Henderson Lentz, North Sr. OF/P — All-CCC, batted .475, ran down everything in the outfield and helped out on the mound

Griffin Myers, Salisbury Jr. P/SS — All-CCC, .921 OPS at the plate, 5-4 on the mound

Chandler Lippard, Salisbury Jr. 1B — All-CCC, batted .415 with 16 RBIs, terrific OPS of 1.025

Bo Rusher, Salisbury Soph. C — All-CCC, shared team RBI lead with Lippard despite batting leadoff

All-Rowan County Second Team

Luke Barringer, Carson So. OF — 16 RBIs, nine extra-base hits and 14 walks, .916 OPS indicates a future star

Logan Ridenhour, Carson Sr. 2B —  batted .303, tied for team lead with 24 runs scored

Garrett Alewine, Carson Soph. C — Cauble and White both pointed at the young catcher as a big reason Carson team ERA was 1.50

Jax Fitz, East Jr. Soph. OF — 21 walks and five HBPs enabled scrappy Fitz to post.494 on-base percentage and .800 OPS

Brett Graham, West Sr. SS — All-SPC, team-high 26 walks, 7 HBPs boosted on-base percentage to .418, scored team-high 28 runs, signed with Belmont Abbey

Pearce Wilhelm, West Sr. 1B/P/C — .847 OPS, most of his 18 RBIs came in the stretch run, plus good work out of the bullpen, signed with Catawba

Olen Stamper, West Jr. P/IF — 4-0 with 1.72 ERA on the mound, including a no-hitter in the playoffs, walk-off homer against Carson was one of the biggest swings of the year, .832 OPS

Dillon Norton, South Sr. OF/P — 4-5 on the mound, outstanding right fielder threw out two Lake Norman runners at the plate in Easter tourney

Dawson Larrimore, South Sr. OF — Offensive catalyst and ran balls down in center field, his 3 hits sparked a win over Carson

Jordan Goodine, North Fr. 1B/P — All-CCC, handled cleanup spot in the lineup, had a three-hit game vs. Salisbury

Corbin Smith, North Sr. 3B — Batted .377 and came through with clutch hits

Joe Steinman, Salisbury Jr. P/OF — All-CCC, 5-3 on the mound, 16 runs and 15 RBIs

Blaine Shellhorn, Salisbury Fr. OF — His exceptional speed led to 16 runs and 9 steals, he knocked in 12.