11/17/06 — Aycock pitching duo signs NLIs with ACC programs

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Aycock pitching duo signs NLIs with ACC programs

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 17, 2006 1:47 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Childhood buddies and cousins, Grant Sasser and Garrett Davis will become adversaries on the collegiate baseball scene upon the completion of their respective stellar careers.

The Charles B. Aycock duo signed national letters-of-intent Wednesday afternoon to play next fall in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Lifelong fans of one of the nation's most-prestigious sports leagues, Sasser inked a scholarship with N.C. State and Davis put his autograph on a North Carolina offer.

Sasser and Davis become the fourth and fifth players to sign with Division I programs during Charles Davis' 17-year tenure as head baseball coach. They join elite company -- Ray Grantham (N.C. State), Rob Wooten (UNC), Dustin Sasser (East Carolina) and Brian Grant. Grant courted an offer from N.C. State, but was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays before he attended classes at N.C. State.

"They've worked hard for this and my main concern right now is to get both of them healthy," said Davis.

Injuries beset both players in the spring and summer.

Sasser, a left-handed hurler, threw back-to-back shutouts and had allowed just four unearned runs in 291/3 innings before an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury sidelined him the remainder of the high school season. A UCL has two main mechanisms of injury -- a slow deterioration due to repetitive stress or an acute rupture of the ligament. Sasser sustained some deterioration and an MRI revealed no signs of a tear.

Davis fashioned a 7-1 record and 0.69 earned run average (ERA) during the spring season. The hard-throwing right-hander earned first-team, all-Eastern Carolina Conference honors and helped the Golden Falcons pull off a double-double -- the ECC regular-season and tournament championships. Davis sustained an ACL injury during American Legion season and did not return.

Both have spent the offseason rehabilitating their injuries.

Sasser utilized a plan implemented by physical therapists at N.C. State has spent countless hours working out at the Y. He has slimmed down to a svelte 175 pounds.

"I'm at the end of long-tossing and will start bullpens within the next week or so," said Sasser, an honorable mention all-ECC selection as a sophomore. "Since Legion season has been over, I've been trying to stay in shape and I ended up losing weight. They gave me a period of time to rest and I followed that plan of physical therapy, so I'm good now."

Davis is a rangy 6-foot-4, 190-pounder who used soccer to keep him in shape for baseball. However, he missed the soccer season and is just now starting to do agility drills.

"I've been running a lot and since I haven't played soccer, I've gained weight, which is good," said Davis. "I've been working out more and trying to stay in shape. The knee is good and I can finally start agility drills, and not just run straight."

Sasser verbally committed to N.C. State last December. He began receiving attention after participating in the State Games, and the Wolfpack coaching staff stayed in constant contact with him. Sasser courted offers from Clemson, UNC Wilmington, ECU, Virginia and UNC.

But N.C. State was the perfect home.

"It's going to be tough, though," said Sasser, who plans to pursue a degree in engineering or architecture. "He (Coach Elliott Avent) was definitely looking at me to become a weekend pitcher. No matter if you're a freshman or a senior, if you prove yourself to me, I'll let you start.

"I try to throw strikes, get ground balls and let my defense work for me. I like to get strikeouts, but usually stick around the plate more."

Sasser uses a variety of pitches -- sinker, fastball, change-up and curveball -- to keep batters off balanced. In two seasons, he's compiled an 8-3 record with 91 strikeouts in 761/3 innings pitched. Sasser was 5-0 before the UCL injury occurred.

The lure of playing for the Tar Heels, the 2006 College World Series runners-up, certainly drew Davis to Chapel Hill. He spent time talking with Wooten and got a better feel for the coaches than anywhere else. Davis received attention from N.C. State, Clemson, UNCW, ECU and South Carolina.

"It's going to be a whole lot different," said Davis. "You're the best down here, but when you get up there, they're all the same and some are even better. You're going to have to work a whole lot harder.

"I'm planning to work my tail off to get a starting spot."

Davis is more of a power pitcher and prefers to challenge batters in the box. He's 11-3 on the mound in his career with 133 strikeouts in 982/3 innings pitched. Davis' fastball has been clocked in the mid-90s, but averages in the high 80s. He also possesses a dominating slider that proved effective last season.

"My goal is to strike out as many people as I can," said Davis, who is thinking about physical therapy or sports management. "Even if you have a good defense, it's just hard to let them hit it. I'm going to have to get used to letting them hit it (in college) because they're going to hit it."

Neither wouldn't mind working in a reliever role.

Regardless, they're eager to compete in the spring and then begin their collegiate careers.

"I'm glad I've got them for one more spring," said coach Davis. "They're great kids to have around, great for the program and really likable. They've got a lot going for them, they really do."