RED SPRINGS — Darren Bowen, the ace of the Red Springs pitching staff, made what he called the most difficult decision of his life on Tuesday.
The rising senior announced on Twitter that he had verbally committed to play at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke after previously being verbally committed to Winston-Salem State.
Bowen, who went 8-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 13 appearances on the mound last season, said a newfound desire to stay local influenced his decision. UNCP’s tradition of success also drew the St. Pauls native to the school.
“They win and they win consistently,” Bowen said.
Bowen struck out 107 batters in 62 1/3 innings last season. Opponents hit just .164 against him.
He also hit .304 with with four RBIs and 12 runs scored in 46 at-bats.
UNCP went 39-15 and made its second-straight appearance in the NCAA Southeast Regional last season. The team graduated three pitchers, including ace Anthony Burke.
Bowen said UNCP head coach Paul O’Neil’s “proven track record” was a key selling point for him. Bowen also said he is familiar with many current and future Braves, including Fairmont alumnus Randy Floyd, who is preparing to enter his first college season.
Bowen is undecided on what he wants to pursue academically in college. He said he hopes his baseball career will extend beyond his time at UNCP.
“Baseball is something I’d love to do long-term,” Bowen said.
The commitment to UNCP added what Bowen called “fuel to the fire” as he prepares for his final year as a Red Devil. Red Springs finished fourth in the Three Rivers Conference and made an appearance in the first round of the NCHSAA state playoffs last season.