LUMBERTON — As soon as word came this past July that I was going to publish a ranking of the top 15 football players in the county, there were several local baseball players that contacted me on Twitter wondering if there could be a list for the top players in the county.
I did it for football and basketball, and I would be doing a disservice not to stack up the best of the best on the diamond this spring.
The list has been nearly eight months in the making, but these 15 baseball players and 15 softball players are ones to keep an eye on this spring based on how they performed last year with some input from local coaches and experts.
1. Seth Thorndyke, Fairmont
Thorndyke is the top hitting talent in the county after going .481 at the plate with 18 RBIs during his all-state junior season. Having to carry some of the load as a pitcher last year, he sported a 1.24 ERA and will likely post another solid year with similar numbers again this year.
2. Jeremiah Locklear, Purnell Swett
The Rams welcome the arm of Locklear, who transferred back to Purnell Swett from St. Pauls, into its pitching staff that has completely turned over from a year ago. At St. Pauls, he was the team’s No. 1 pitcher as a freshman, and earned county freshman of the year honors.
3. Aaron Revels, St. Pauls
The top returner that the Bulldogs have, Revels will be a relied on both for his leadership and ability to make plays all over the field. Revels hit .384 last season and was named all-county.
4. Randy Floyd, Fairmont
As the ace of the Fairmont pitching staff, Floyd will be put in big situations against the Three Rivers Conference toughest teams, but has the stuff to hold opposing hitters at bay. In his final year before pitching for UNCP, he will play a vital role for the Golden Tornadoes’ success.
5. Kris Allen, Lumberton
Lumberton returns a lot of positional players and pitchers from a year ago, but the Pirates hope that Allen will continue to show growth at the plate this season to lead the team full of juniors. After hitting .382 last year, he’s the top hitter returning from a year ago.
6. Jaylen Mack, Red Springs
Mack has been a consistent performer behind the plate for the Red Devils in his first two seasons, and has set high goals for himself going into his junior year. After hitting .324 as a freshman and .351 as a sophomore, the Red Devils’ catcher hopes to break the .400 average mark this year.
7. Dakota Locklear, Purnell Swett
One of a few returning starters from the senior heavy team last year for Purnell Swett, Locklear’s bat will be crucial in helping the Rams fight through this transition year with a lot of young talent. During his all-county junior campaign, he hit in the middle of the order and had a team-best 19 RBIs.
8. Zack Carter, South Robeson
As the top pitcher and hitter last season for the Mustangs, Carter had a 1.86 ERA and a .356 batting average. He has been a solid contributor for South Robeson in his first two years. Expect much of the same from him this season with a lot of energy around the team.
9. Seth Odum, Lumberton
Fighting through the transition to varsity, Odum had the best ERA for the Pirates a season ago and allowed 19 hits in 36 1/3 innings. A year older and wiser, he will be a key piece in how Lumberton does among the new Sandhills Athletic Conference.
10. Trevan Locklear, Purnell Swett
Like Jeremiah Locklear, Trevan Locklear transferred between seasons to Purnell Swett and is a top of the lineup hitter for the Rams. For the Bulldogs, he hit in 26 runs and had a sub-1.00 ERA in nine appearances on the mound.
11. Parks Ledwell, Lumberton
Ledwell, like Odum, is hoping to provide a lift as a starter once again this season or Lumberton after battling through his sophomore season. Along with his pitching, his bat will be a key part of the Pirates’ batting order after hitting .283 last year.
12. Darren Bowen, Red Springs
Transferring to Red Springs and stepping into a bigger role as a starting pitcher, Bowen has already shown signs that he can help out a team that is hoping for a breakthrough year.
13. Skyler Hunt, Fairmont
Hunt’s senior season will be need to a big one to back up the play of Thorndyke and Floyd if the Golden Tornadoes want to find success. He is another consistent bat in the order after knocking in 10 RBIs last season.
14. Coty Locklear, Red Springs
Locklear hit .298 last season and had team-high 10 RBIs. As one of the rising juniors that got its first taste of varsity last year, he will be a key piece of the offense.
15. Cody Scott, South Robeson
Scott was a big piece for the Mustangs last season and now takes a step up this season with the departure of some key players from a year ago.
1. Madison Canady, Lumberton
Canady stepping into the batters box makes most pitchers fear throwing to her. But when they do, she usually makes them pay. As a junior, she hit over .500 and had six homers and 31 RBIs, all of which could see an increase this year with a well-rounded lineup around her.
2. Morgan Britt, Lumberton
As a serious pitching and hitting threat for the Lady Pirates, Britt readies for her junior year and has already started it off well in the circle with a no-hitter against Carolina Forest. She hit in the third most RBIs on the team last year to help her cause, and that will be expected again this year.
3. JaiLeana Deese, Purnell Swett
With a .443 average last season at the plate, Deese is the Lady Rams’ leading hitter from a year ago and comes into her junior season with a little more experience around her. She struck out 71 batters in 91 innings a season ago in the circle.
4. Kasey West, Lumberton
West led the Lady Pirates in total hits last season and was a brick wall behind the plate on defense. As a steady top-of-the-order bat, Lumberton’s offense should be able to get runners on and move them with ease this season.
5. Mackenzie Johnson, Fairmont
Johnson was a strong point for Fairmont during its down year last season as a solid infielder and the leader at the plate. She returns to a team that is senior heavy, but the junior looks to improve upon a .300-plus season at the plate last year.
6. LeeAnn Nobles, Lumberton
Batting behind Canady, Nobles makes teams pay for putting runners on after knocking in 29 runs last season. She also has power-hitting abilities that the middle of the Lady Pirates’ lineup will depend on.
7. Brianna Brewer, St. Pauls
Brewer enters her sophomore campaign looking to follow up a big year hitting and pitching the ball. At the plate she had a team-best 21 RBIs and hit .411, while racking up 103 strikeouts in 94 innings as the Lady Bulldogs’ pitcher.
8. Katelyn Culbreth, Red Springs
Although Culbreth will miss the first half of the season with an elbow injury, Red Springs can hope that when she returns she brings the same batting stats she had a year ago when she hit .346 and had 25 RBIs.
9. Kaitlyn Hunt, Purnell Swett
Following a junior year that included her leading the team in RBIs, Hunt is one of six seniors for Purnell Swett and will be a key on defense in the infield.
10. Mya Strickland, Fairmont
With Johnson helping hold down the infield last year, Strickland was the leader in the outfield and she hit in a team-best nine RBIs a season ago and is one of the eight seniors on the roster.
11. KK Riveira, South Robeson
As one of very few returners for the Lady Mustangs, Riveira is expected to do a little of everything this year. She hit .276 a year ago as a freshman.
12. Kaylee McMillan, Fairmont
After missing most of last year due to injury, McMillan hopes to duplicate the success she had pitching as a sophomore that included 55 strikeouts in 83 innings.
13. Emma McMillan, Fairmont
The twin sister of Kaylee, Emma also was hampered with injuries late in the year, and was a solid hitter before being sidelined with a .306 average and eight RBIs.
14. Danielle Gray, St. Pauls
Gray had good year hitting the ball with a .302 average, six RBIs and three extra base hits and has room to add on to those numbers in her senior year.
15. Kiera Bryant, Red Springs
Red Springs coach April Cooper has high hopes for the junior outfielder, who has already left an immediate impact at the plate for her team and is hitting .538 for the season.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.