02/08/08 — Wooten, Davis ready to lead Heels

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Wooten, Davis ready to lead Heels

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 8, 2008 3:05 PM

While Wayne County and the surrounding areas steeped in rich baseball tradition continue to produce state champions, with them come players who consistently excel at the collegiate level.

Former Charles B. Aycock standout Rob Wooten, now at North Carolina, set a school record for appearances with 47 last season. He posted a 2.35 earned run average (ERA) and is expected to be the Tar Heels closer this spring.

Wooten's success on the diamond hasn't come without adversity. Forced to miss the entire 2004 season due to shoulder surgery, Wooten wondered about his future and if he'd ever be the same pitcher again.

When he did return to the mound, Wooten struggled to regain his old form. In his sophomore season, his ERA ballooned to 9.82 in just over seven innings.

After countless hours of working to rediscover his arm slot with Carolina assistant coach Scott Forbes and spending the summer of 2007 with the Chatham A's of the Cape Cod League, Wooten began to develop into the player he came to Chapel Hill to be. In 532/3 innings, he recorded 58 strikeouts and issued just 23 walks as the Tar Heels' set-up man.

Wooten set an NCAA record with six appearances in a single College World Series as Carolina fell to Oregon State in the finals for the second consecutive year.

"Rob told me how when he first got to North Carolina how tragic he thought that was (to sit out)," Tar Heels head coach Mike Fox said. "Last year he set the school record with 47 appearances and we couldn't get him in the game fast enough.

"The year before, it was not even in our plans to get him in the game. All of the sudden all that hard work, and mental toughness and staying with it paid off for him."

Garrett Davis, a fellow former Golden Falcon and current Carolina teammate of Wooten's, is expected to make a dramatic impact on Fox's program. Davis was named the North Carolina Class 3-A player of the year as a senior in 2007. The right-hander struck out 111 batters and compiled a microscopic 0.32 ERA as a member of Aycock's state-title squad.

"So far things are looking good. I'm working pretty hard," said Davis, the Tar Heels' prized freshman hurler. "We've had success at Aycock, but this is a whole different level. You're an underdog now and you've got to work your way to the top."

Aycock's state championship squad sent another pair of pitchers into the world of collegiate baseball. Left-hander Grant Sasser landed at N.C. State and Brandon Price took his tools to Lenoir Community College.

Sasser started and won the state title game for the Golden Falcons, and went 10-0 his senior season with a 1.41 ERA. Price became one of Aycock's most valuable relievers while earning all Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference honors.

Colin Parker, the ace of Princeton's staff with a 101 strikeouts and 8-3 record, guided the Bulldogs to a 1-A state title as senior. He will continue his career at Campbell. Parker batted .380 and swiped 20 bases in 2007 and should see some time in the Camels' outfield.