05/31/12 — Hunter Barnett signs with MOC

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Hunter Barnett signs with MOC

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 31, 2012 1:48 PM

Once Hunter Barnett took "the call," he couldn't say "yes" fast enough.

The caller?

Carl Lancaster from Mount Olive.

Barnett signed a national letter-of-intent to play baseball for the Trojans, who just completed a 44-win season that included a Southeast Region berth and third straight Conference Carolinas championship.

"I didn't even think twice," Barnett said.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior from Eastern Wayne garnered attention from Lenoir Community College, Maryville (Tenn.) and Greensboro College.

"I've always had my eye on Mount Olive ... have always wanted to go there," Barnett said. "I like Coach (Rob) Watt, Coach Lancaster and the way they run their program. I wanted to stay close to home. Plus, you've got a chance to get a (national championship) ring."

Barnett helped guide the Warriors to 16 victories, their fourth Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season title in the past five years and an second-round appearance in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

A left-handed hurler with big hands, Barnett gained some maturity with the Wayne County Post 11 Senior American Legion team last summer. Though he threw a minimal number of innings in nine appearances, he received valuable instruction from Jason Sherrer, who was the catcher on Mount Olive's Division II College World Series championship team in 2008.

Barnett's velocity improved and he had better command of his pitches heading into this spring. He became the No. 2 starter in the rotation and emerged the winning pitcher in Eastern Wayne's opening-round playoff triumph over West Craven.

"I hope I can throw some innings for them next year," Barnett said. "They have a lot pitchers ... guess it will depend on how much I improve (pitching) in the fall. I do need to get a change-up.

"At the plate, I need to be more patient and hit the ball the other way."

Barnett batted a crisp .395 with nine RBI and one home run. He fashioned a 1.73 earned run average and 8-2 record on the mound, logging 83 strikeouts in 64-plus innings of work.

"I think Hunter has just tapped into his potential," Eastern Wayne head coach Jabo Fulghum said. "He is very deserving of this opportunity to play for a great baseball college such as Mount Olive."