North Johnston's Dylan Radford, shown pitching against Rocky Mount on April 18 in the Golden Leaf Invitational, was named the 2-A EPC Co-Player of the Year alongside teammate and catcher Garrett Littleton. Jimmy Lewis | Times
North Johnston catcher Garrett Littleton, shown throwing to first base to complete a strikeout for Wilson Post 13 in a game against Edenton Post 40, earned co-EPC Player of the Year honors with teammate Dylan Radford. Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
By Tom Ham
Senior Staff Writer
Dylan Radford and Garrett Littleton have connected on the baseball diamond since the seventh grade.
Radford pitched for the North Johnston Middle School team and Littleton was his catcher.
Another year of middle school, one season on the North Johnston High junior varsity and three campaigns on the varsity saw Radford, a right-hander, continue to pitch.
And Littleton was always his catcher.
The pair remained connected in recently completing esteemed Panthers’ careers.
The 2-A Eastern Plains Conference’s Player-of-the-Year distinction is being shared by Radford and Littleton after the pair paced North Johnston to its third consecutive league championship and to an advance into the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.
AREA ALL-EPC PICKS
They also lead a parade of five Panthers named to the all-conference team. Also tabbed were junior center fielder Trey Whitley, senior Logan Hayes and senior shortstop Blake McLean.
Panthers accorded honorable mention were Steven Worley, Brandon Barnes, Colby Hall and Holden Hales.
Also proclaimed all-conference from The Wilson Times readership area were junior center fielder-pitcher Alston Pittman and junior pitcher-infielder Austin Worley of Beddingfield; and junior Cody Fuller of SouthWest Edgecombe.
Four of North Johnston’s All-EPC performers have committed to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
Radford and Littleton will connect once more at UNC Pembroke. Hayes is headed to Guilford and McLean to the University of Mount Olive.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Radford said of his player-of-the-year recognition. “I had a pretty good year. I’m glad Garrett got it along with me. He does it all (in the role of catcher).”
Behind the seniors, the Panthers of head coach Brian Ford seized conference championships each of the last three seasons and increased their win output by one each year to 21 (four losses) in 2017. Panthers’ wins totaled 60 from 2015-17.
“We were a new group and we were very successful,” Radford noted. “I like to think I had impact in that, but its definitely a team game and it takes all nine to win.”
In his senior year, Radford, a right-hander, posted a 9-3 record with a microscopic 0.36 earned run average, four complete games and two shutouts. In 58 1/3 innings, Radford yielded only three earned runs, walked only 15 and struck out 68.
However, Radford reasons he was successful his final high school season because of de-emphasizing the strikeout.
“I trusted my defense,” he explained. “I tried to attack hitters, make them hit the ball and, hopefully, the defense would make plays.”
With a velocity that topped out at 86 miles per hour, Radford relied upon a fastball and curve ball.
At the plate, Radford batted a robust .493 (36 for 73) with a team-high 24 RBIs and two doubles.
Littleton developed a reputation for keeping runners off base with a strong throwing arm. He batted .386 (27 of 70) with 23 RBIs.
“I was happy about it,” Littleton responded to being named co-player of the year. “I had a good year. I worked hard in the off-season. It was good we made it to the third round of playoffs after losing in the first round last year. We had a good year; we lost only four games.”
Like Radford, Littleton has started since his sophomore year.
Hayes hit for a .356 average (26 of 75) with 22 runs scored, a team-high eight doubles and 13 RBIs.
McLean wound up with a .392 average (29 of 74) with 20 RBIs, four doubles and one triple.
Whitley not only hit a team-high .408 (31 for 76) but was the main power threat with four doubles and three triples. He paced the Panthers with 13 stolen bases and drove in 19 runs.
For Beddingfield, Pittman batted .360 (27 for 75) with 22 runs, 13 RBIs, five doubles, three triples and one home run.
Worley emerged the ace of the Bruins’ mound staff, posting a 6-4 record and 2.68 ERA. He hurled two complete games and, in 49 2/3 innings, issued just 11 walks while striking out 45.
Fuller ranked as SouthWest’s most versatile player, batting .320 (16 for 50) with 13 runs and a double. He made nine mound appearances and committed just one error in 20-plus games.