A quartet of senior ballplayers from Topsail High School recently made commitments during the NCAA early signing period to continue their athletic careers beyond high school.
Left-handed pitcher Bryce Cota became the fifth student-athlete from the Pirates’ baseball program to ink with a Division I program in the last two years as the southpaw heads to Campbell University in Buies Creek.
Campbell competes in the Big South Conference and won the conference title in 2014, receiving a bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament in the Columbia Regional in Columbia, South Carolina.
“There were a number of reasons why I decided on Campbell,” said Cota. “Outside of baseball, I liked the size of the school, the class sizes are smaller and it’ll give me a chance to get to know my professors. On the field, Campbell is on the rise. Why I might now have the physical size bigger schools are looking for, I liked what the coaches at Campbell had to say and [they] believe in me.”
Infielder Chase Riker joins the growing list of standouts to play college ball as Topsail currently has nine student-athletes competing in college, with another handful of Pirates already receiving attention from programs across the southeast. Riker will head to Barton College in Wilson for the 2016-17 academic year. Barton is a member of the Conference Carolinas among NCAA Division II schools.
The Topsail baseball team went 25-3 last season as the defending state champions and finished 10-2 as Mideastern Conference winners. Riker hit .385, while Cota fashioned a 5-1 record on the mound, with a 0.78 ERA. In 26.1 innings pitched, he struck out 52 and allowed just three earned runs.
“I’m hoping to get more innings this upcoming season,” Cota added. “We’ve been in the weight room four to five days a week, working out on our own. I’m really trying to improve on throwing more strikes, not allowing as many walks and just working harder than last season.
“The work ethic Coach Gehris and the entire staff at Topsail have instilled in us is what has makes this program so successful. One speed at all times, in the weight room, in the classroom on the field. Give it our best no matter what we do. They put us in a position to get opportunities to be successful in anything we do whether it be in baseball or life.”
Rounding out the list of Hampstead products to sign letters of intent this week are Topsail softball standouts Keri White and Danielle Parks. White will head to Boone following graduation to play for Appalachian State, while Parks joins Riker in a Conference Carolinas school at Kings University in Bristol, Tennessee.
The Mountaineers are a Division I program and compete in the Sun Belt Conference. Both players helped guide the Pirates to the 3A East Regional during their junior season. Topsail went 20-8 last year and 11-1 in conference.
Seven other local student-athletes from the area also announced commitments this past week, including golf standouts Katy Flax (Ashley/UNC-Pembroke) and Blake Taylor (Wilmington Christian Academy/East Carolina).
Summer White (N. Brunswick/UNC-Pembroke) and Jordan Floyd (Wingate) will get an opportunity to play college softball, while Fletcher Stevenson (Ashley/North Greenville) continues his athletic career in lacrosse. Hunter Ashburn (West Brunswick/USC-Aiken) will also play college baseball.