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The Region 1 team, representing Northeastern North Carolina from Wilson to the Outer Banks, captured a silver medal at the Powerade State Games of North Carolina high school baseball tournament last week in Charlotte.
It was the highest finish in baseball in the 21st century for Region 1. Eight area high school players competed for the team and were big contributors to its success.
The players from the Wilson Times readership area — AJ Jones from Southern Nash; Blaize Keen, Gavin Huff, Tyson Bass and Chase Waddell from Hunt, and Chad Bean and Hunter Stokely from Fike — represented the Northeastern part of the state well and finished with a 3-1 record, the lone loss coming in the gold medal game. They were joined by Rocky Mount’s Evan Hart, another Big East player, and Fike baseball head coach Buck Edmundson, who served as an assistant coach.
Edmundson said even among top competition, the team played about as well as anyone did.
“I think the best thing about this group is they bonded well,” Edmundson said. “They just came together for four days and you can tell they played with a lot of enthusiasm for each other, which is rare, you know, because it’s for individual gain.”
After a day of drills in front of collegiate and professional scouts on June 12, the Region 1 team started competition with a 3-2 victory over Region 7 at BB&T Ballpark on June 13. The following day, the team continued to roll with a 4-2 victory over Region 8, then plowed over Region 4, 9-1, to secure a spot in the gold medal game for the first time in 30 years, according to Edmundson.
The last time the team played in the championship game, Edmundson said, the team’s head coach, Axel Smith of Oakwood School, was on the team as a player.
But unlike that time decades ago, Region 1 fell 5-1 to Region 6 on June 16 and finished runner-up.
“We were really in a good place going into Sunday and we just ran out of gas a little bit,” Edmundson said. “I thought Region 6, that’s the Charlotte region, they caught a few breaks early in the game and they scored some in the fifth and that was the difference.”
Among the team success over the weekend, local players also managed to stand out individually among other top players and in front of scouts.
Defensively, Edmundson noted a number of quality pitching performances from local players.
“I thought all of our pitchers did extremely well,” Edmundson said. “We didn’t give up many runs until the last day.”
Hart threw four scoreless innings and struck out three from the mound. Huff also threw four innings and gave up one run, while striking out four. Bean gave up three earned runs in five innings and added six strikeouts.
From the plate, Edmundson said Jones, Keen and Bass made the most of their opportunities and had quality at-bats, with multiple hits across the four games. But he said it was Stokely who stole the show for the way he swung the bat.
During workouts in front of scouts on the first day, Stokely hammered a monster home run that Edmundson estimated to be about 450 feet, or around 100 to 150 feet beyond the outfield wall. The ball cleared an oak tree well beyond the warning track and made the UNC commit “pretty feared across all eight regions” the rest of the weekend.
“I had 10 or 12 scouts talking to me about that ball he hit,” Edmundson said of his player. “They wanted to know, ‘How common is that?’ And if you throw to him everyday like I do, it’s pretty common.”
In competition, Stokely hit several more home runs, and was one of the most talked about players of the weekend.
This is the third year that Edmundson has been involved with the Region 1 team. Last season, he also served as an assistant coach and got to coach Myles Cyrus, Garrett Browder and Zach Pittman, three senior players who, along with Bean, were at the center of the Golden Demons’ success this spring.
“I just think it’s an honor to be able to go out and coach these guys and help them get an opportunity to get seen by these colleges,” Edmundson said. “It’s just an honor to be able to go out and do that.”