High school baseball: South’s Leffew makes it official with Wake Forest

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

By Mike London

LANDIS — South Rowan senior Haiden Leffew has carried the label of Wake Forest verbal commit since December 2021, but on Wednesday afternoon he became a Wake Forest signee.

The world is different for him now than it was on Wednesday morning.

“It’s a pretty remarkable feeling I have right now, kind of surreal,” the lefty hurler said. “It’s very cool to finally be an official Demon Deacon. I committed quite a while back, but there’s never been any thought about changing my mind about Wake Forest. Loved the coaches, loved the campus, and a degree from Wake Forest means a lot. There aren’t many places where a degree means more.”

He plans to major in business and hopes to own a business whenever he’s done with baseball. He’s been a stellar student at South Rowan and plans for that to continue in college.

“Wake Forest is hard and demands a lot of athletes, makes sure they go to class,” Leffew said. “That’s one of the things I liked most about the school.”

South Rowan coach Thad Chrismon Leffew’s rise to Division I signee coming before he threw his first varsity pitch for the Raiders.

“He’s got great stuff, with great movement, and that movement is the key for him,” Chrismon said. “He’s got all kinds of physical tools, but he’s also a grinder, constantly working to get better.”

Give Wake Forest credit for being the first major program to figure out what Leffew could become. The Demon Deacons spotted him in the summer of 2021 pitching for the South Charlotte Panthers.

Leffew, who will turn 18 soon, has transformed his body in the last two years with lots of weightlifting, lots of workouts and a careful diet. He’s changed from an ordinary-looking 6-foot-1, 210 to a physical, powerful 6-foot-3, 190. He looks like a Division I ace now and he’s got the stuff of one.

He’s worked to develop strong secondary pitches — curveball, changeup, slider — and he’s getting his fastball to the plate more briskly now. He was clocked as high as 94 mph this fall.

“I’ve lost some pounds and built some muscle while improving my mechanics,” Leffew said. “I was throwing 80s when I first committed to Wake. I remember a scrimmage at Catawba last February, and I was surprised when they told me I was throwing 90. I remember watching the video, and it was like, ‘Hey, I’m throwing it pretty good.'”

His junior high school season was nothing short of phenomenal. He was instrumental in South’s state championship season as one of the state’s best two-way players.

He was 10-1 with a 1.02 ERA on the mound, striking out 114 in 62 innings. He struck out 44 percent of the hitters he faced. South could count on him for six or seven innings every time he went to the mound.

“He competes,” Chrismon said. “And the bigger the game, the more he wants the ball. Every coach wants to coach the kids like that.”

At the plate, he was a force for the Raiders, batting .317 with two homers, 13 doubles and 30 RBIs.

“I was a pretty good hitter growing up and I always dreamed of being a first baseman in college,” Leffew said. “Then I had a bad tryout as a hitter with the South Charlotte Panthers travel team and became mostly a pitcher. But I knew I would need to hit for South Rowan in high school, and especially this past season. We’d lost Jackson Deal, who was a really big stick for us, and I knew I’d have to help more with my bat. So I spent a lot of time in workouts with Nathan Chrismon, Kane Kepley and Ty Hubbard, three of the best hitters in the county. I had to get better as a hitter or those guys would have embarrassed me. I set a high standard and did my best to fulfill it.”

He fulfilled it. He delivered some clutch hits, some huge hits. While he’ll be able to focus on pitching at Wake Forest,  he’s expected to be South’s best hitter as well as the Raiders’ best pitcher this spring.

Leffew’s pitching progression continued in the summer and fall with the South Charlotte Panthers. He turned in some devastating outings, some MVP performances. dominating some of the toughest hitters in the nation.

“Maybe it was the heat, playing games in Florida and Georgia, but I did add more velocity,” Leffew said. “I was consistently in the low 90s, quite a few 93s, and I’d touch 94 some.”

With his size as a left-hander, Leffew will likely be on the draft boards of MLB teams next summer, considering his competitiveness, his movement and his rising velocity.

He loves Wake, and can’t wait to pitch there, but if you’re drafted high enough, if the money is life-changing, you have to listen to what the pros have to say.

If he can stay healthy, and if a draft scenario does occur, Leffew will be prepared to make the best decision.

“If I do get drafted, if I do get that opportunity, it will be a very hard thought,” he said. “I’ll sit down with my parents and we’ll have a deep discussion and come to a decision. But  I’m all set for Wake Forest. My goal is to be the definition of a student-athlete for Wake Forest.”