• 73°

High school baseball: Stock is rising for Salisbury’s Honeycutt

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Coach Mike Herndon doesn’t hesitate to use Vance Honeycutt’s name in the same sentence as Whit Merrifield’s.

Herndon coached Merrifield, MLB all-star with the Kansas City Royals, in his days at Davie County High. Now he coaches Honeycutt, a Salisbury High senior who is committed to North Carolina’s baseball program.

“I told Vance when he was a freshman that he had every bit as much talent as Whit did, that the only difference was that Whit worked a lot harder,” Herndon said. “But then Vance went to work in the weight room and he’s done everything that it takes to excel. Now look at him. Now he looks like a Division I guy is supposed to look. That’s a good-looking kid, almost 6-foot-3 and 185 or 190, and he runs like a gazelle.”

Herndon’s son, Carson, was a Division I pitcher at Liberty not long ago. He throws BP to Honeycutt several times a week. BP is BP, but this isn’t standard high school BP.

“In five years at Salisbury, I’ve seen three home runs hit to left field in our park,” Mike Herndon said. “Vance hit a dozen out the other day off Carson. The ball is jumping off his bat different now. It sounds different now. I don’t know what position Vance is going to play at Carolina, but I have no doubt he’s going to hit a lot of home runs for them.”

Like Merrifield, who had parents who were accomplished athletes, Honeycutt has a promising gene pool. His parents were star athletes at North Rowan and both competed for the Tar Heels — Bobby in baseball and Leah Ann in track and field. Honeycutt’s sisters, Kayla (tennis) and Julia (soccer), were exceptional student-athletes in every way and were Rowan County players of the year.

Honeycutt started growing relatively late, but then he shot up 5 or 6 inches in a single year. Then his athleticism started catching up with his new body. It’s been a process, but now he’s arrived.

“All the success that my family has had athletically really helped to push me to be my best,” Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt has been the starting shortstop and a pitcher for the Hornets since his freshman year. As a freshman and sophomore, he was a slim .290 hitter with limited power, but he showed enough potential playing for the South Charlotte Panthers between his sophomore and junior seasons that UNC offered him a scholarship. They liked the strong arm, the soft hands, the quick feet and the exceptional speed. He was running a 6.8 60-yard dash then, and there’s no doubt he’s faster now.

“I was only about 155 pounds then, but I was getting a chance to play all over the southeast and getting the opportunity to compete against some of the best players around,” Honeycutt said. “UNC has a great school and a great program and was always at the top of my list, so it was really exciting when they believed in me and offered me. I got the chance to meet a lot of the recruits in my class at a UNC football game, guys from Texas and Florida and New Jersey, guys from out of state mostly, but all good guys.”

Honeycutt announced a verbal commitment to the Tar Heels in the summer of 2019. It surprised some people because he hadn’t been a high school star up to that point.

“I can honestly tell you I saw it coming for years,” Herndon said. “Believe me, this guy is a dude. He hasn’t gotten a lot of accolades yet, but I believe he’s the best baseball player in Rowan County.”

Honeycutt’s athletic ability started to get noticed by more people in the fall of 2019 when he was the junior quarterback for the Hornets’ playoff run that ended with 13 wins and state runner-up honors in 2AA. The Hornets would rather pound it than air it out, but Honeycutt threw for 1,507 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ran for 626 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 100-yard rushing games against North Davidson and against Mount Pleasant in the first round of the state playoffs.

Last spring probably would have been the baseball campaign that catapulted him to being a household name in Rowan County, but COVID-19 ended the Hornets’ season after five games. Honeycutt was 6-for-15 at that point, with three doubles and an inside-the-park home run — his first high school homer.

“I hit one in the right-center gap against North Rowan and just kept running,” Honeycutt said. “It was close at the plate.”

Honeycutt, a Braves fan who plans to major in business at UNC, is competing with the South Charlotte Panthers in Durham this weekend.

He’s rated as one of the top five middle infielders in the state in the Class of 2021, but he may end up being a second baseman, third baseman or left fielder for the Tar Heels. They recruit primarily guys who have played shortstop or center field in high school because those are the guys who can run. Herndon says he could play anywhere the Tar Heels need him to play, except catcher.

Some recruiters have compared Honeycutt to Josh Horton, the All-America shortstop for the Tar Heels who starred on teams that reached the College World Series. That’s high praise, but Honeycutt is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the state in his class.

High school in 2020-21 is different. “Odd” is Honeycutt’s one-word description of it. He attends classes physically on Mondays and Tuesdays. Not surprisingly, those are the days he likes best.

He’s obviously excited about the football season that is planned for February. The Hornets are expected to be a handful for anyone who runs into them.

Honeycutt also is excited about the baseball season that is scheduled to begin in April. Salisbury will have small numbers, not many more bodies than the minimum, but the Hornets have been bolstered by North Rowan transfers and both Herndon and Honeycutt expect the team to be competitive. Honeycutt is expected to be the leadoff man, the best way to make opponents pitch to him.

“Things are going to continue to snowball for Vance,” Herndon said. “This kid has got it. I believe he’s going to be a rock star.”

 

 

 

Comments

Coronavirus

People receiving first dose of COVID-19 vaccine grows by less than 1%

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools brings Skills Rowan competition back to its roots

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time

News

GOP leaders differ on bottom line for state spending

News

Police: Man killed in shootout with officers in Winston-Salem

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide