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Area Players in the Pros

Longtime friends White, Daniels face off in minors

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It has been a rare occurrence over the years but D.J. Daniels and Isaiah White have played on opposing baseball teams in their careers prior to Thursday’s Appalachian League game in Greeneville, Tennessee.

The former teammates on the Wilson Pelicans travel team and, for a brief spell, the Wilson Post 13 American Legion baseball team, squared off in the first game of a three-game series Thursday at the Greeneville Reds’ Pioneer Park. It was Daniels’ Bluefield (West Virginia) Blue Jays that got the upper hand with a 4-2 victory but White sparkled for the Reds, going 2 for 4 with an RBI single and a stolen base.

White, who now is listed as “Zeke White” on the Greeneville roster, said via Twitter message after the game that, outside of games at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club years ago, this was the first time the two friends had played against one another. Daniels’ memory was a little better, however, as he said the most recent time was early in the 2015 high school season when Daniels’ Fike team stopped White’s Greenfield squad 5-0 in the Wilson Tobs Varsity Classic in Fleming Stadium.

The matchup came to fruition when White was sent by the Cincinnati Reds from their short-season Pioneer League team in Billings, Montana, where White played last season, to Greeneville after just one game in Billings. White, who was a third-round pick of the Miami Marlins shortly after he graduated from Greenfield in 2015, has thrived so far in Greeneville, batting .462 with three stolen bases and two RBIs. He spent his first season with the Marlins’ Gulf Coast League rookie team in Florida and then played with Miami’s short-season New York-Penn League team, the Batavia (New York) Muckdogs, in 2016. He was traded by the Marlins to the Cincinnati Reds in January 2017 and spent last summer playing in Montana.

Daniels was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He spent his first two seasons with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in Florida, where he struggled at the plate. However, Daniels bulked up this past offseason and, during spring training, played his way into an assignment at Bluefield. Through seven games, Daniels is batting .240 (6 for 25) with a double and three RBIs.

White and Daniels, who were surprised by the attendance of their former Pelicans coach, Earl Taylor, at Friday’s game in Greeneville, were excited to see each other for the first time as professional baseball players. White tweeted out a photo of the two of them before Thursday’s game.

“Oh, yeah, had to get that pic!” said White.

Daniels, who said that he and White worked out together four or five times a week during the offseason, said, “It was just a good feeling for us both to be in this position, playing against one of your best friends.”

The twosome better get used to it. If they stay with their respective teams, they will face one another three more times when the Reds visit the Blue Jays in Bluefield on Aug. 6-8.

DWANYA GETTING HOT

Another former Pelicans and Post 13 teammate of White and Daniels, Dwanya Williams-Sutton, has gotten off to a quick start in his pro baseball career. Williams-Sutton, a 2015 Greenfield graduate, was drafted in the fifth round by the San Diego Padres earlier this season after three standout seasons at ECU. He started out in the short-season Northwest League with the Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Washington. After going hitless in his first nine at-bats as a pro, Williams-Sutton belted a double and finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs in Tri-City’s 8-2 victory at Salem-Keizer on June 18.

In his last three games prior to Friday, Williams-Sutton has gone 6 for 10 with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs.

HOUCHINS PROMOTED AGAIN

Former Hunt High and East Carolina University star Zach Houchins moved back up the minor-league ladder Thursday as the third baseman was recalled to the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees.

This will be the second stint this season with the Pacific Coast League Bees for Houchins, who had started the season in Salt Lake City, Utah, but was sent back to the Angels’ Double-A Southern League farm team, the Mobile BayBears, on May 13. Houchins, who was initially called up to Salt Lake at the end of last season, certainly seemed able to handle Triple-A pitching as he batted .333 (28 for 84) with five doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs in 23 games in Salt Lake City.

His average dropped off when he was sent back to Mobile but his power numbers increased. In 27 games with the BayBears, Houchins batted .238 (24 for 101) with seven homers and 23 RBIs. However, Houchins produced a better slugging percentage (.500) and OPS (.867) with the Bees than he did with the BayBears (.485/.780).

Houchins, who helped Hunt reach the state 3-A championship series in 2010, was drafted in the 15th round of the 2011 draft by the Washington Nationals after his first season at Louisburg College. He decided to remain in school and then transferred to ECU when his two years with the Hurricanes were up. He was eventually taken in the 13th round with the 389th overall selection by the Angels in the 2014 draft and has climbed through the organization since then.

Houchins was a Southern League All-Star in 2016 and 2017 with Mobile and named to the postseason all-star team last year. He was also voted the league’s top utility player.

Through five minor league seasons, Houchins has belted 62 homers and knocked in 317 runs with a .266 average.

If he is promoted to the Angels, Houchins will be the first player from Wilson in the major leagues since Beddingfield High graduate Freddie Bynum played his final game with the Baltimore Orioles in 2008.

WHITLEY, FENNELL GET STARTED

Two more area players taken in the MLB draft earlier this month, North Johnston High graduate Trey Whitley and Barton College’s Trent Fennell, have begun their pro careers. Whitley, who is another Post 13 alumnus, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles with the 835th overall pick in the 28th round. He is currently playing for the Gulf Coast League Orioles in Sarasota, Florida. Whitley, who is playing outfield, got his first pro hit on June 25 but is just 1 for 14 thus far.

Fennell, drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 24th round with the 726th overall selection, has just one appearance with the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies in the short-season Pioneer League.

Fennell worked two scoreless innings in Grand Junction’s 5-3 loss at Ogden (Utah) on June 25, allowing a single and striking out two.

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