Champs pipeline hits area schools

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For a league that just concluded its first decade of play, Wilson City Little League already boasts a rich and storied history.

Southern Bank Stadium stands as one of the premier playing surfaces east of Interstate 95, and multiple age groups flock to the city for district- and state-level tournament competition each year.

Indeed, during a time period where action can slow down in The Wilson Times readership area, the exploits of WCLL never fail to keep us on our toes.

In 11 short years, the league has sent alumni into professional baseball. And who could forget the magical ride that the 2015 Ages 11-12 All-Stars embarked upon? After coming up short in the Ages 9-10 2013 Tournament of State Champions in West Virginia, that same age group returned in Greenville and captured the 2014 Ages 10-11 TOSC at Greenville’s Stallings Stadium.

Even then, that was only a precursor of what was to come. The next year, finally eligible to compete for a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Wilson shined its brightest.

The 13-player roster, headed up by Chris Bass and assisted by Wes Pope and Greg Waddell, dropped one game in District 6 play before taking their bats to the state tournament in Transylvania County and winning that tournament, sealing up a berth in the Little League Southeast Regional in Warner Robins, Georgia.

This was the epitome of the big time. The four magic letters of “ESPN” began to come into play as Wilson shed its signature “W” jerseys for something a little bigger — the North Carolina logo.

Although Wilson wasn’t able to advance to Williamsport that year, each new All-Star season brings a renewed hope, a defined path to meeting — or even exceeding — what that special group accomplished.

However, baseball careers didn’t end when the final out for that 2015 group was recorded in Warner Robins. Eleven of the 13 players on the roster played in some form of high school baseball this spring as our local schools begin to reap the seeds sown by Wilson City Little League.

Nine of the 13 players from the 2015 team remained in-county to populate four area rosters. For Hunt, freshman Chase Waddell, sophomore Tyson Bass, sophomore Blake Daniels and freshman Cody Mercer filled out the roster for the 2018 3-A Big East Conference tournament champions. Bass had the biggest contribution of the bunch, hitting .308 and lashing six doubles to rank second on the team.

It was more of a pitching display at Fike, which finished the Big East regular season unbeaten at 10-0. Sophomore Chad Bean, who closed his fair share of postseason games for Wilson three years ago, emerged as the league’s Pitcher of the Year on his way to being named 3-A all-state by North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association.

In compiling a 9-1 record in 15 appearances, Bean had a 0.86 ERA in 56 2/3 innings of work. Opponents only hit .186 against him.

Not to be forgotten as contributors for the Golden Demons these days are freshman Colton Moats and sophomore Connor Jinks. Moats had a two-run single in the opening game of the Southeast regional.

Thomas Lane, not lacking for power during his time as a WCLL All-Star, took his craft to Community Christian School and hit .289 this season for the Cyclones.

At Beddingfield, Tyler Godwin toiled in his freshman campaign for the Bruins and stands to have three more seasons of eligibility.

Two mainstays of the roster, Jacob Dienes and Christian Dougherty, went the homeschool route. Playing for Wake County Homeschool, the duo combined for 19 appearances on the mound for the Warriors, who compiled a 20-8 record. Dienes plays other sports for DASH United.

Although two players — Beddingfield’s Dylan Pollock and Fike’s Eli Pope — didn’t play baseball this year, it’s not as if they have left the scene entirely. Far from it, in fact.

Pollock remains active as a golfer for the Bruins, while Pope figures to be in the mix for the Fike starting quarterback job this fall after leading the Demons’ junior varsity.

Even if not in baseball, expect this championship pipeline of athletes to continue from Wilson City Little League going forward.