While the NCHSAA calendar year may be over, some of the Triangle area’s top baseball players still had an opportunity to showcase their skills thanks to the 2015 Powerade State Games of North Carolina.
The four-day event, which took place at North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium, Duke’s Coombs Field, N.C. State’s Doak Field and the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, included eight teams which represented eight corresponding geographical regions of North Carolina.
The Region 3 team, which included players from Johnston, Wake, Durham, Orange, Person, Granville, Vance, Warren and Franklin counties, went 3-1 in the event and defeated Region 6 10-0 on Sunday in the Bronze Medal Game in Cary. The team’s only defeat came on Saturday as it fell 6-3 against Region 5, a team representing the Greensboro and Triad areas, in a rain-shortened five-inning game.
Coached by Orange head coach Dean Dease, Region 3 featured five News & Observer All-Metro selections and rising sophomores, juniors and seniors from Apex, Bunn, Cleveland, Fuquay-Varina, Green Hope, Holly Springs, Leesville Road, Middle Creek, Orange, Person, Princeton, Sanderson, South Johnston and West Johnston.
While Dease’s team fell short of its goal of winning a championship, Dease considers the event a success.
He said the point of an all-star type event such as the Powerade State Games is for the area’s top players to have a chance to demonstrate their skills against stellar competition in front of a large audience, college and professional scouts included, while also bonding and making friends with other players.
That much was accomplished.
“This gives them a unique opportunity just for the North Carolina kids,” Dease said. “We have a lot of North Carolina (colleges) here obviously, but we’ve got them from Virginia and South Carolina and Tennessee coming in and that’s good too.”
A talented group
Dease, who has served as Orange’s head coach since 1988, remarked that the talent level in the Triangle area has grown significantly throughout the years. His roster this summer is evidence of that.
Amongst the 20-man roster, there were standouts like Fuquay-Varina pitchers Caleb Bissette and Austin Harris, both of whom posted sub-2.00 ERAs this this past season and power hitters such as Spencer Brickhouse of Bunn and Tyler Keenan of Cleveland.
“It’s a big honor,” Bissette said about having the chance to play for the Region 3 team. “With all the college schools and pro scouts and with these guys, it’s a great opportunity. I think we have a good group of guys who are very talented.”
Green Hope pitcher Chris Joyner felt the same way, too.
“It’s a heck of an experience, he said. “It’s just really cool. Great players, great guys, it’s just fun.”
Orange catcher Brad Debo and pitcher Bryse Wilson along with South Johnston’s Joe Johnson and Sanderson’s Cory Wood added some more star power, as well.
Getting to play with some of the area’s top players while also against opponents from around the state is what made participating in the Powerade State Games worthwhile, according to Wilson.
“I like to come together with the best players from the region and meet new people and just play against better competition,” Wilson said.
According to Dease, the Triangle area is one of the more talented regions in the state.
“I think it’s as strong as any other part,” Dease said.
Representing your school
For Brickhouse, an East Carolina recruit and a now two-time participant in the Powerade State Games, representing Bunn is something he took great pride in.
Brickhouse was the only player on Region 3 from Franklin County and he enjoyed playing for his community.
“It means a lot to my school,” Brickhouse said. “I come from a very small school and to come to an event like this two years in a row, it means a lot for a small school.”
Meanwhile, the event gave players who are usually in opposite dugouts an opportunity to be on the same team for once.
“We got Joe Johnson and Zachary Bridges from South Johnston,” Cleveland’s Keenan said. “We play them during our conference play.” Keenan was joined by teammate Ryan Flores on the squad. Cameron Meyers and Noah Liles of nearby West Johnston also made the team.
Making a statement
While players are seen by scouts more than ever before, playing in the Powerade State Games still provided a chance for them to be seen and noticed by college and professional coaches from all over the country.
In 2014, nearly 90 college coaches and professional scouts attended the games and many were back again in 2015.
Wood, a Coastal Carolina recruit, said players definitely look forward to playing in front of scouts and college coaches.
“There’s scouts that come every game and a lot of them, so you get to show as much as you can in a few game’s worth,” Wood said.
Keenan, who remains uncommitted after batting .483 with seven home runs as a sophomore, looked forward to playing on a bigger stage.
“People who haven’t committed anywhere get a chance to show their skills in front of people,” he said.
Rounding out the Region 3 roster was: Holly Springs’ Patrick Wheeler, Leesville Road’s Thomas Perrin, Princeton’s Matt Daughtry, Person’s David Solomon III, Middle Creek’s Sammy Chapman and Jonathan D’Ercole and Apex’s Ben Highfill.
Holly Springs’ Rod Whitesell, Leesville Road’s Guy Civitello and Roxboro Community’s Pete Tuck were assistant coaches.