04/15/09 — Winn, Wise step up at SWHS

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Winn, Wise step up at SWHS

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 15, 2009 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- A year ago eighth graders Keenan Winn and Kevin Wise had dreams of playing varsity baseball someday.

Now starters as freshmen on the varsity squad at Southern Wayne Winn and Wise are living out those dreams.

"I thought I would be playing JV right now," Winn said. "But, coach (Trae) McKee called me up so I went up. I knew I had to come out and step up and play harder than I had been playing."

Winn, the Saints left fielder, possesses a combination of power and speed with a discipline at the plate not often found among younger players. The former Grantham Middle School star led Southern Wayne in walks at the end of last week while sporting a .325 batting average.

"Last year, I saw Keenan play at Grantham and I had heard good things about him," McKee said. "He and Kevin both have a world of talent. They have bat speed and tremendous arm strength. You notice this stuff early because they have so much ability."

In his first Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference game at defending league champion Eastern Wayne, Winn immediately sent a message to the rest of the conference with a deep home run to left field.

A varsity football and junior varsity basketball athlete, Winn manages to find time to balance school with polishing his skills in three different sports.

"It's tough but I have to keep my grades up," Winn said. "You have to keep both school and sports going to get somewhere. During the summer I work on football and toward the end of football season I start working on basketball. At the end of basketball I start working on baseball but I mostly play baseball year round."

Winn spent last summer playing junior American Legion baseball for McKee's Wayne County South team and benefited significantly from the step up in competition.

"I invited Keenan for a tryout with the junior legion team last summer and he made the ballclub," McKee said. "I think junior legion is not as pressure-packed as varsity baseball but at the same time it's definitely a step up from what he was seeing. He was just dominating middle school pitching and he had some key hits last summer. He doesn't seem to feel a whole lot of pressure."

Wise, the Saints center fielder and relief pitcher never envisioned himself a year ago as a varsity starter so soon. Staying humble and focusing on the task at hand rather than how far he's come so quickly has been key for Wise.

"Playing varsity as a freshman never really crossed my mind," Wise, a .276 hitter said. "I was just playing each game. The pressure does get to me a little bit but I think I handle it well. It's kind of hard (to not think about) being a freshman on varsity but I don't talk about it much. All you have to do to is work hard and you can make it."

With Winn and Wise roaming the outfield for the next three years Southern Wayne fans should have plenty to cheer about while opposing coaches will have two more reasons to lose sleep at night.