Weddington uses talent, attitude to win first 3A state championship
by Aaron Garcia
As his players rushed the mound and enveloped pitcher Sean Collins, who had just thrown the third and final strike of the Class 3A championship series on June 2, Weddington coach Travis Poole didn’t budge. Instead, he kept one foot on the dugout floor and the other on the top step leading to the field.
“I just watched it take place because I wanted to sit back and watch what they had accomplished,” said Poole. “It was an unbelievable sight. Words can’t really describe it.”
Collins’ strikeout capped a magical run for the Warriors, who claimed the Class 3A title by downing Pikeville Aycock, 4-2, to sweep the best-of-three series at Zebulon’s Five County Stadium.
It’s the first state baseball championship for a Union County team since Forest Hills’ 1997 title, and the first for any Weddington team since 2003.
In the first game of this year’s championship series, the Warriors jumped to a 5-0 lead behind a 3-for-3 effort at the plate from Chris Simpson, who Poole said “was a spark there for us in the lead-off spot all year.”
Weddington pitcher Alex Bostic held Aycock scoreless through six innings with a two-hit, eight-strikeout, eight-walk performance. Closer Daniel Pope ended a late Aycock rally and earned the save in the 5-2 win.
“I think once we got that win (and) the kids got that first game under their belts and some of the jitters and nervousness out of their system, they were able to just go out and play,” said Poole.
Poole, however, admitted he was a little nervous that his players were too relaxed as the team rested in its hotel after the Friday night opening game, especially with the second game of the series beginning at 11 a.m. the following morning.
“You would’ve thought we were at a spring break tournament,” Poole said. “Even Saturday, when we got to the ballpark, they were as loose as they could be.”
Fortunately for Poole, his team’s laid-back nature paid off, especially after the Warriors fell behind 2-0 after two innings. In the third inning, first baseman Jeremy Schellhorn knotted the game with a two-RBI single.
“Next thing you know, we’re right back in it,” said Poole.
Bostic then clubbed a solo shot in the fifth before Schellhorn added another RBI in the seventh to give the Warriors their final 4-2 lead.
Poole said he didn’t find his players’ attitude worrisome because it had been their outlook for years. Poole pointed out that players such as Pope, Nathan Borelli, Conor Newton, Andrew Knight and Payden Honeycutt had played together since they were freshmen and cut their varsity teeth against some of the state’s best competition while members of Charlotte’s ultra-tough Southwestern 4A conference. Throw in players such as juniors Schellhorn and Bostic, and sophomores Daniel Calabretta and Collins, and Poole said he had the perfect championship recipe.
“When you start putting those pieces together with the attitude those kids have, it was unbelievable,” said Poole.
Which, he added, only made the sight of his team celebrating on the pitcher’s mound even more unforgettable.
“When that final strikeout was made, just to be able to stand there and watch that take place was just … it’s ingrained in my mind,” Poole said. “That’ll be something I always see. When I look out, I’ll see that reaction of 17 kids as excited as they can be.
“To accomplish what they did, as a coach, is probably the most gratifying thing I can think of.”