Western Harnett’s baseball team set its program record for single-season signings on May 29 when Chase Holder and Connor Smith both signed to play at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville — giving them five total players moving on to the next level.
A couple of days later, they secured signing No. 6 when Dustin Lund committed to play at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.
It’s not too surprising that so many Western players are getting opportunities to play in college. The Eagles had their best season in over a decade, compiling a winning record for the first time since 2010.
Last season they fell just below .500 after playing a tough regular season schedule, preparing them to make a sneaky run into the third round of the NCHSAA 3A State Playoffs.
This year’s team started off strong, winning eight of its first nine games against stiff competition. After a rough patch in the middle of Tri-County Conference play, the Eagles heated up at the end of the season, winning the conference tournament and securing a home playoff game against Clayton, which they won 3-1.
Western’s first signing of the year was a big one: Bradley Wilson committed to pitch at East Carolina University. Wilson served as the Eagles’ ace all year long, posting a 10-2 record with a 1.12 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 62 and one-third innings. He was named the Tri-County Conference Pitcher of the Year, as well as the Record Pitcher of the Year. He also posted an impressive .346 batting average and tied for the team lead in doubles (eight) and home runs (one).
Second to sign was Collin Welch, who will join Florence-Darlington Tech in South Carolina. Welch was an important two-way player for Western, filling in as the team’s No. 2 pitcher while also leading the team with a .400 batting average and 23 RBIs. He joined Wilson on the All-Record team.
The third signing was leadoff man Noah Kessler. He’ll be playing at Mary Baldwin University in Virginia next season. Kessler led Western in hits (31) and runs scored, (21) and tied for the team lead in doubles (eight) and stolen bases (nine). Kessler was an All-Record honorable mention.
Holder and Smith signed to play at Southeastern together on the same day. Holder was a solid hitter near the top of Western’s lineup, batting .333 on the season while scoring 19 runs (third on team) and producing 16 RBIs (tied for second). And Smith gave the Eagles some reinforcement in the back half of the lineup, racking up 15 runs scored and 10 RBIs. He also displayed great patience as he led the team with 17 walks.
Lund’s signing with Marymount makes six. He was also an important two-way player for Western, serving as the team’s No. 3 pitching option while maintaining solid production in the back half of the lineup. He posted a 3.15 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched, and produced 15 runs scored and 10 RBIs at the plate.