LUMBERTON — When Daniel Oxendine was a sophomore, Lumberton baseball coach Paul Hodges knew he could pitch.
He just didn’t want anyone else to know.
As a junior, Oxendine, the Southeastern Conference’s co-Player of the Year, surprised opposing teams all year long not just with his well-known hitting skills, but also his lights-out pitching.
“Daniel’s a special player,” Hodges said. “We knew that when he was coming in as a freshman. I’m just excited to get a chance to coach an individual like this. His work ethic is unbelievable.”
That work ethic has resulted in Oxendine earning the Robeson County Player of the Year award as a junior after leading the Pirates in hitting this season with a .400 batting average, two home runs, seven doubles and 20 RBIs. As a pitcher, he went 5-2 with .52 ERA and 46 strikeouts.
“It’s a big step coming up to that starting rotation,” Oxendine said. “Then throwing strikes is all it takes.”
Though he succeeded on the mound, his passion lies in the offensive side of the game.
“I like hitting,” he said. “Just in getting a base hit and being able to run. It’s a joy.”
That joy turns to terror for opposing teams. Hodges said Oxendine is one of the most respected hitters he’s coached.
“The respect that he commands from the other teams is unbelievable for a high school student,” Hodges said. “He had 25 walks this year and 14 were intentional.”
Hodges isn’t the only one helping Oxendine improve. Former LHS standout Brandon Bryant, who was also coached by Hodges, has also become a mentor and friend of Oxendine.
“He’s my next door neighbor,” Oxendine said. “He taught me most of everything I know about baseball. Just seeing what he did. Him talking to me, having me get more confidence in my game, having me relax. He’s just someone I look up to.”
Oxendine doesn’t discredit the coaches with helping him along either, saying they have been a big part of not just his game, but his growth as a person.
“They’re amazing. I mean not only about baseball,” he said. “You can just come talk to them about life, and they always know the answer. They have always been through it and everything.”
And the coaches are looking to continue Oxendine’s growth. Hodges said the team will be looking for a more vocal leader on next year’s squad.
“He’s such a humble, quiet player, and everybody looks up to him, but he’s not a very verbal player,” Hodges said “He leads by his actions, and that’s one thing I want to see him step up next year and challenge him to be more of a leader verbally. Sometimes I need somebody to be a coach on the field.”
Oxendine was also disappointed in how the team finished this year and said there is definitely a drive to improve, especially after a first-round loss in the state playoffs.
“You always want to go farther and deeper into the playoffs and try to win,” he said “You can’t settle just for that playoff position.
“You have to work every day. You can’t take a day off. It just pushes me to keep on going. I can’t stop now, once it’s been 13 years.”