The nearly two dozen local ballplayers competing at the college level this spring have done an excellent job representing the area. A few select athletes are among the nation’s best in a handful of statistical categories moving into the month of April.
Junior Collin Thacker (Gardner Webb) leads the country with 17 doubles, while Steven Linkous (UNCW) sits just outside the top 10 with 22 stolen bases. Chance Shepard may have cooled off after setting the N.C. State record for consecutive games with a home run earlier this year, but the senior still has seven long balls, which is among the top 50 within Division I hitters.
At the junior college level, Mason Berne (Spartanburg Methodist) has launched 18 round-trippers to lead the country among NJCAA Division I members.
Berne’s ability at the plate has earned him a chance to compete for UNCW next season. The sophomore verbally committed to the Seahawks in March. He’s also ranked fifth in the country in total bases (112) and 11th in runs batted in (50). Berne is hitting .409 this season for the Pioneers, with 46 runs scored. Spartanburg Methodist is 29-11 overall and has received attention in the national rankings.
Teammate Kevon Perkins (North Brunswick) has also settled in at Spartanburg Methodist as a .341 hitter, with 30 runs and 15 stolen bases. Perkins is scheduled to transfer to UNCW for his junior year.
At the NCAA Division I level, nationally ranked Coastal Carolina swept Gardner Webb over the weekend, but Thacker continued to swing a hot bat for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. He finished the three-game series 7-for-14 at the plate, with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
For the season, Thacker leads the team with a .424 batting average. He has 33 runs batted in and a .466 on base percentage.
Locally, UNCW has struggled to find its groove on the road. The Seahawks are winless away from campus following two setbacks against Northeastern. UNCW continues an eight-game road trip at Campbell on Wednesday. Linkous leads the team in batting average (.378) and runs scored (37).
Nationally ranked N.C. State took two of three from Virginia in ACC baseball this weekend. While Joe O’Donnell (Hoggard) didn’t throw for the Wolfpack in the series, the righty is third on the team in innings pitched (31.1). In six starts, he has a 3-2 record and 4.02 ERA.
O’Donnell’s former classmate at Hoggard, Bryan Sammons, also continues to hit his stride on the mound. The big lefty was again strong in the starting role for Western Carolina on Saturday, striking out nine batters in six innings to score the victory. Sammons scattered nine hits and limited Wofford to just one run, working around five walks and a pair of bases-loaded jams to keep the Terriers off the scoreboard.
Sammons is 4-1 as a top-of-the-rotation guy for the Catamounts. He leads the team in innings pitched (45.1) with 41 strikeouts.
Steven Linkous. Photo courtesy- UNCW sports
Davidson College has a pair of New Hanover High School alums on the club as Sam Foy works through his senior campaign at second base. Ward Coleman has seen limited action, 10-for-18 at the plate. The Wildcats are 16-12 overall and 4-2 in the Atlantic 10.
Danny Wilson (Topsail) has transitioned to first base after playing third for a majority of his high school career. Wilson went 5-for-13 for UNC-Asheville in a series win against Presbyterian over the weekend. He finished with six runs scored and one RBI. Wilson is hitting .247 in his rookie season.
At the NCAA Division II level, freshman Sam Luchansky (Topsail) threw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief in a series win for Belmont Abbey. The rookie sidewinder has appeared in 10 games this season.
N.C. Wesleyan wrapped up USA South Conference play with a series win over Piedmont. Freshman Trey Croom (New Hanover) had three hits during the weekend slate, with two runs batted in and two runs scored. Croom has cooled off in his rookie season, but still hitting .341 for the Battling Bishops. N.C. Wesleyan is 22-11 overall and finished 13-5 in league play.
Among other NCAA Division III schools, Pete Wildeboer (Laney) is batting .245 for Methodist University.
In his first season at Guilford Tech, Brandon Boone (Hoggard) has become one of the go to guys on the pitching staff. He’s appeared in 12 games, with a 3-0 record and one save in 36 innings pitched. Boone has a team best 3.25 ERA.
Markel Jones (West Brunswick) is batting .336 and Andrew Chomiczewski is hitting .346 for Brunswick Community College. The Dolphins are 5-1 in Region 10 standings and 23-11 overall.