07/01/07 — Aycock trio signs with eastern North Carolina collegiate baseball powers

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Aycock trio signs with eastern North Carolina collegiate baseball powers

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 1, 2007 2:02 AM

PIKEVILLE -- Old habits die hard.

Just ask Charles B. Aycock varsity baseball coach Charles Davis. Each of the past three seasons, he's penciled in Thomas Pilkington at third base, Joseph Toler at second base and Bradley Taylor in left field on his lineup card.

That will change next spring.

The senior trio, who helped Aycock claim the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A state title nearly a month ago, announced their college intentions Friday morning. Toler and Taylor will play next season at perennial NCAA Division III power North Carolina Wesleyan, while Pilkington has committed to Lenoir Community College.

"There was something special that me, Derek (Matthews) and Allen (Thomas) saw about this group, even when they were freshmen," said Davis. "Three years ago, when we brought them up (to varsity) as sophomores, we thought they had a chance to be very special.

"I just knew good things were going to happen to them. I was tickled to death with their choices and I hate to lose them."

The players didn't share Davis' outlook.

"I wanted to see us all going to college and play ball, but you never know," said Pilkington. "Growing up around Aycock, I know there are many good players who didn't play at the next level. To see how many we have (this year) to go play college baseball is awesome ... a great feeling."

The threesome becomes the fourth, fifth and sixth players to move onto the college scene for the Golden Falcons. Teammates Garrett Davis (UNC), Grant Sasser (N.C. State) and Brandon Price (LCC) have already signed their national letters-of-intent.

Each realizes they have a tough task ahead.

N.C. Wesleyan, which has won two College World Series championships, lost two outfielders in the Major League Baseball draft. Taylor hopes to fill one of those two voids, but will compete for playing time among a large incoming freshman class.

"The corners to the outfield are open, which is where I play," said Taylor, the son of Randy and Linda Taylor of Fremont. "The coaches said they'd like to put me there, but I'd have to work hard to play because there are other good ball players there, too."

An infielder, Toler nearly faces the same dilemma. He, along with Taylor, realizes they must properly follow coach Charlie Long's offseason workout regimen, which should prepare them for fall ball.

Pilkington has some stern competition on the hot corner. Three other players will vie for playing time for the Lancers, who have recorded 40-plus wins each of the past two seasons.

"I know if I do the offseason workouts like Coach (Stony Wine) talked about, I could develop a little bit and earn some playing time," said Pilkington, the son of Nancy and the late Terry Pilkington. "I need to work on my defense a lot because there are times where I struggled with it. I've got to get bigger, too."

The lure of playing at top-notch programs attracted all three players. But they also compared to their new coaches to Davis, who is energetic and dedicated to his baseball program.

Toler recalled watching a scrimmage at NCWC that ended in a no-hitter. Long was the first person out of the dugout to congratulate his pitcher.

"That really stuck with me," said Toler, the son of Jim and Jennifer Hobkirk of Goldsboro. "When I visited and played at the field, it reminded me of Aycock, but just bigger. The coaches do the same things practice-schedule wise.

"It's just going to be a bigger place with new people."

During their three varsity seasons, the trio helped C.B. Aycock compile a 71-15 record. They played a vital role in back-to-back Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season and tournament title runs in 2006 and 2007, which included a phenomenal 23-1 mark in league play.

Pilkington accounted for 59 runs scored, 59 RBI, seven home runs and 17 stolen bases during that stretch. He posted a .318 career batting average.

Taylor, a two-time all-ECC selection, clubbed 14 home runs and hit .335 during his career. Taylor scored 36 runs this season, which tied him for fourth all-time with Nelson Cunningham (1999) in the school record books. The 14 career homers put Taylor in a second-place tie with Brad Peele, who played for Davis from 1997-99.

Also an all-ECC pick this spring, Toler fashioned a career average of .342 with 78 hits, 47 RBI, seven homers and 31 stolen bases. He ranks fifth all-time in career stolen bases and shares that spot with Mack Pennington (1992-93).

All three credited coach Davis and his staff for their success. They also thanked their respective parents for their countless hours of support they provided after practice and games -- home and away.

"They've been our biggest fan base," said Pilkington.