06/23/12 — Barbour-Stafford sign with Southeastern CC

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Barbour-Stafford sign with Southeastern CC

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 23, 2012 11:06 PM

Justin Barbour had little trouble making his college decision. Bryant Stafford wasn't sure his career would continue until he received some encouragement from his Charles B. Aycock teammate.

Now, the two birds from the same feather will play next spring at Division II Southeastern Community College. Each signed a national letter-of-intent with the Rams, who just two seasons ago played in the JUCO World Series in Enid, Okla.

"I think it's a great choice for both of them," CBA head coach Charles Davis said. "They've played together all their life. To have a pitcher and catcher going to the same place, it will make both of them comfortable. They're very good students and great kids."

Barbour and Stafford helped lead the Golden Falcons (21-11 overall) to a runner-up finish in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A state championship series. Aycock shared second place in the Eastern Carolina Conference, but earned the No. 4 seed for the postseason.

Davis' team upset three consecutive No. 1 seeds and won the program's third regional championship in program history. Barbour garnered all-ECC recognition and was a first-team News-Argus All-Area selection. Stafford picked up all-ECC honors.

The duo will join former CBA hurler Eric DuBose, who sat out one season due to Tommy John surgery, at Southeastern. He, along with Jordan Quinn, who played on the Rams' World Series team, offered some advice on the school located in Whiteville.

Quinn has enrolled at N.C. Central.

"They were real key ... were there for both of my visits," Barbour said. "They texted me all the time to let me know what was going on, so that was a big help. Once I interacted with the guys, I felt fine and it reminded me a lot of Aycock where baseball is a big deal."

Barbour took batting practice and caught a couple of bullpens during one of his visits. But he took notice of Southeastern catcher Jordy Hunt, who was named the Region X player-of-the-year and a first-team JUCO All-American.

"Big and strong," laughed Barbour. "I've got to get bigger and stronger. I think I can bring leadership and I have a great feel for the game I think. I know I can help them behind the plate."

Stafford could step in immediately, also.

The crafty left-hander posted a 1.79 earned run average this past spring and logged 87 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings. He's got solid command of his breaking pitches, but needs some velocity on the fastball.

"The coaches said they were going to lose a lot of pitching," Stafford said. "I think my curveball is pretty good. I have to work on my change-up, locating it better and the same with my fastball. I need to get faster and stronger."

Southeastern signed 12 in-state players and will look to improve upon this year's 26-13 campaign.

Davis anticipates Barbour and Stafford will grab considerable playing time.

"Everybody is always looking catchers and left-handed pitchers," Davis said. "Justin's ability to call pitches is one of his strong points. His handling of the pitchers and knowing what to do was like having another coach on the field.

"Bryant can help them right away. He cut down on his walks this year. Being left-handed is a major plus and if he can locate his fastball, that will make him that much better."