02/03/08 — Baseball stars turn out for second annual banquet at ECAP

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Baseball stars turn out for second annual banquet at ECAP

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 3, 2008 8:41 AM

Three state championship-winning programs.

A room busting at the seams with talent.

A coach who has guided a pair of clubs to the mecca of college baseball.

All were on display at the second annual Wayne County Hot Stove banquet held at the Eastern Carolina Athletic Park.

Baseball players, coaches, fans and supporters gathered to honor Charles B. Aycock, Princeton and Wayne Country Day for their respective state championships in the 2007 season. All listened to the words of University of North Carolina head baseball coach Mike Fox.

Fox, who has compiled a 398-176-1 record in nine seasons in Chapel Hill encouraged those in attendance, particularly the baseball players, to be people of good character. He pointed out how that can often correlate into success.

"If there's been one difference in our program the last couple years, it's been we've had teams with great character," said Fox, who has taken the Tar Heels to the College World Series each of the past two seasons. "I encourage the young people here to make good decisions. Sometimes I think young people want to go out and grab everything that life has for them before they're even 18 or 19 years old."

Fox continued by relating the game of baseball to life and challenged the aspiring athletes in the room to view baseball as a teaching tool ... not simply as a game or a way to further their futures.

"Life's going to throw you some tough challenges," Fox said. "If you're involved in baseball, which all of you young people are, you're not going to understand until years down the road what you're learning and how it's going to affect you.

"You're going to have ups and downs, but what you're learning now is how to get through it."

A handful of awards were also handed out including the Doyle Whitfield Award which went to the area's best coach. Charles Davis (Charles B. Aycock), Bruce Proctor (Princeton) and Michael Taylor (Wayne Country Day) each received the award for what their respective teams accomplished on the field last spring.

"To win the Doyle Whitfield Award means a lot," said Davis, who played for Fox at North Carolina Wesleyan. "I just feel honored. I coached against Doyle, but he beat me a lot of times."

Proctor, a former high school teammate of Davis', guided the Bulldogs to a Class 1-A state title.

"I played against Coach Whitfield's (teams) when I was in high school," Proctor said. "I had an opportunity to coach against him. To me it's awesome to be around this kind of environment."

Wayne Country Day's rise to the top of the state's private school ranks has been an accelerated one since Taylor took over the Chargers' program.

"This has come very quickly after just losing and rebuilding," said Taylor, who played for Davis at Aycock. "Last year was just a fast forward for us. I've known Coach Whitfield for a while and I give a lot of credit for this award to Coach Davis.

"Everything that I do in my program is because of what Coach Davis taught me. I try to use that as an example to my players."

Former Aycock standout and current Carolina freshman Garrett Davis and former Princeton hurler and current Campbell freshman Colin Parker shared the Jerry Narron Award given to the area's best player.

Parker struck out 101 batters, posted an 8-3 record with a 2.71 ERA and had .373 batting average in his senior season with the Bulldogs. Davis recorded 111 strikeouts and an 0.32 ERA in helping the Golden Falcons capture the Class 3-A state title.

"It's just an honor, any kind of an award is just an honor," Davis said. "Especially to be recognized for all of Wayne County. I was just playing the game."

Former Goldsboro High and UNC player Clyde King -- who has spent time with the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants organizations -- presented his award to N.C. State freshman Grant Sasser and North Lenoir graduate Sthil Sowers. Both were outstanding pitchers for their respective teams.

Sowers went 7-0 last season with a 0.31 ERA and 56 strikeouts. In his final three seasons for the Hawks he complied a staggering 30-3 record.

Sasser had a 10-0 record for the Golden Falcons in the spring with a 1.41 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 64 innings of work.

"I've got to thank God for this first of all, because without Him this wouldn't have happened," Sasser said. "They gave me this award, but with my team behind me, it was more than just me.

"It makes me really happy to know that I'm honored by him (King) to get that award."

The inaugural George Whitfield Award, given to the player who best exemplifies dedication, determination, sacrifice for the good of the team and a genuine love for the game was given to Brandon Price, a former Aycock pitcher who is now playing at Lenoir Community College. Price become one of the Golden Falcons' most reliable relief pitchers in 2007.

Chad Pate was given the John Thomas Award as the area's volunteer coach of the year.