High school baseball: Wolfpack signee Mako ready for big senior season

Published 12:01 am Sunday, January 22, 2023

By Mike London


GRANITE QUARRY — Former Carson star Owen White might get to the big leagues this year with the Texas Rangers.

Former West Rowan and UNC pitcher Austin Love is ranked as one of the top 25 prospects for the St. Louis Cardinals and former Salisbury star Vance Honeycutt, a UNC sophomore outfielder, is being touted as a potential No. 1 pick in the entire 2024 MLB draft.

But there’s even more to come from Rowan County baseball.

East Rowan senior pitcher Chance Mako is part of every prospect list for the 2023 MLB draft that will be held in July.

Some have Mako in the top 50  — that’s for all the high school players in the country, plus all the draft-eligible college players.

Others rate Mako in the top 100 or so. For the high school guys being considered for selection, it’s mostly about projection. What do they project to be four or five years from now?

Scouts love how Mako projects.

“I did really well in some summer all-star games against some of the best players in the country,” Mako said. “Some hitless outings (for two innings) and some outings where I gave up one hit. But I don’t think about the draft and I don’t worry about which lists I’m on. I honestly don’t pay any attention to it.”

He’s been contacted by 25 MLB teams, which gives him a reasonable idea that his stock is very high without looking at lists.

Once a string-bean, Mako is growing into his body. He’s now 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds and hopes to hit the 200-pound milestone by the time his senior high school season starts.

He throws two different fastballs — a four-seamer that appears to rise and a two-seamer that darts down. He’s touched 95 mph on the radar gun and he consistently throws 93s and 94s.

Mako’s right arm whips sliders that spin and bite and make scouts drool. Those sliders are quite a bit swifter than the fastballs thrown by the average high school hurler.

He can throw a deceptive changeup and he is blessed with that body type that scouts love to see on hurlers. Long and loose. Not too thick or too thin. Broad shoulders and long arms. Lots of room to add pounds and muscle through weight training and natural maturity.

Mako has officially signed with N.C. State and was honored and celebrated in the East auditorium recently, along with teammates Blake Hill (Catawba) and Morgan Padgett (UNC Pembroke).

He is an outstanding student who plans to study mechanical engineering at one of the top engineering schools around, so you can believe him when he says he’s not bouncing off the walls worrying about the draft.

He’s 18 and his dreams right now are about wearing the Wolfpack red and white at Doak Field at Dail Park and maybe in Omaha, Nebraska.

His dreams are not about cashing big-league checks for his favorite big-league team, the New York Yankees, or high-fiving his favorite player, Aaron Judge.

Mako was playing travel ball by age 6. He discovered the joys of pitching a bit later. He can swing a bat with power and field competently at an infield corner, so he didn’t lock his focus on pitching until middle school. That’s when he fell in love with pitching.

He is one of the special ones. N.C. State offered after seeing him throw an inning at their camp. He verbally committed to the Wolfpack way back in August 2020, shortly before he began his sophomore year at East.

“N.C. State always made me feel like part of their baseball family,” Mako said. “There was never any thought about changing my mind about N.C. State. Every Monday night, they always call to see how I’m doing. I’m excited about playing for them. They’re constantly adding on to the field and enhancing the baseball facilities, and it’s a great program and a place I know I can be happy for four years.”

Like all of this year’s seniors, Mako had his high school career threatened, detoured and shortened by COVID, His freshman year was the season (2020) that COVID stopped shortly after it started.

Then he had only a half season as a sophomore in 2021. He made the most of it — 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA.

Mako snowballed as an elite national prospect in the fall of 2021 when he was playing for the South Charlotte Panthers showcase team. There was a game in which Mako pitched six no-hit innings with 16 strikeouts against high-level opposition. That’s when everyone noticed him. It was hard not to.

As an East junior in 2022, he was highly successful — 8-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 83 strikeouts.

He walked 35, hit eight and tossed 15 wild pitches, so there is still some work to do as far as control, but he was really hard to square up. He threw 1,014 pitches and allowed two extra-base hits.

The body of work Mako put together following his junior season was equally impressive. He pitched in national-level all-star games at Dodger Stadium — his first time on a MLB field — in Kansas City and in Hoover, Ala., and he excelled in all three events.

“Chance was taller than me when he was in the third grade,” East coach Brett Hatley said. “He’s just one of those guys who is blessed with tremendous talent and a great arm. But you see a lot of those guys who are way ahead of everyone else when they’re young, and then they take their talent for granted and start to coast and then the other kids catch up to them in high school. But Chance has stayed out front because of his incredible work ethic. He’s always worked as hard as anyone, and that’s why he is where he is today.”

As a senior, Mako will be counted on as the leader of East’s pitching staff for the first time.

Cameron Padgett, Rowan County Pitcher of the Year the last two seasons, is now a freshman at UNC.

Mako will be counted on for a lot of dominant innings on the mound and for some homers and RBIs. Mako, who hit a walk-off homer against Lake Norman last season, has as much power as anyone in the county when he connects. He and Morgan Padgett likely will alternate between pitcher and first base for the South Piedmont Conference games. Hatley will find a way to get both bats in the lineup when someone else pitches.

“I had a really good fall swinging the bat and I’m looking forward to helping us win some games even when I’m not pitching,” Mako said. “This group of seniors went undefeated when we were in the eighth grade at Erwin. We’re expecting to have a special season.”

When July rolls around, Mako is likely to hear his name called in the early rounds of the draft. At that point, he’ll have a decision to make, but right now that’s all hypothetical, so it’s not on his radar screen.

He’s young, but he’s already learned that you don’t lose sleep over the things you can’t control.

“Whatever happens with the draft happens,” Mako said. “My focus is on winning championships at East and getting ready for college classes and college baseball.”