Colby Barnette’s senior season with the Piedmont baseball team brims with the kind of moments that stay in a player’s mental scrapbook for a lifetime, memories that, if they were newspaper clippings, would fill a wall so full of tack holes that it would just fall to dust. Piedmont’s season highlights included a 13-run win over the defending Class 3A champ Weddington, which would wind up winning its second consecutive title and solidify itself as one of the best teams in the state…again. There was a 19-game win streak. There was a seven-run outburst in the fourth inning of the Panthers’ Game 1 win in the Class 2A state title series. And, of course, there was the Panthers’ 2A state title itself – their first in 29 years.
But Barnette’s favorite memory from an individual standpoint was when he led off the bottom of the seventh against North Stanly in the second round of the Rocky River 1A/2A conference tournament. Both teams had held the other to just one hit and the game was scoreless before Barnette smacked the game-winning homer.
It stands out, said Barnette, because the long ball wasn’t really his specialty.
“I’m not a power guy,” Barnette said. “Even though I’ve hit a few home runs, that’s not my job. My job is to get guys that are on base, to get them over or get them in (to score).
“That’s what my mentality was: to not be the guy that tries to do it all, but to get the whole team into it and get other guys in and help us win. That’s what my focus was.”
It was a role Barnette thrived in this season, so much so that he’s been named Union County Weekly’s 2013 Baseball Player of the Year.
On the season, Barnette, a third baseman, batted .402 with 45 hits (including five in the two-game championship series against North Brunswick). He scored 27 runs and plated 34 RBIs. And, despite his reluctance to label himself a “power guy”, he belted seven home runs while helping lead the Panthers to a 30-3 record.
It was a solid end to a record-setting career for Barnette in which he finished sixth in state public-school history in both career RBIs (127) and base hits (148). He and Cody Purser also combined to hit a pair of grand slams in a single inning in the team’s win over Weddington, the first time the feat had been accomplished in state history.
Barnette also was a reliable presence on the mound for the Panthers. While he relinquished regular starting duties to aces Cameron Price and Corey Sikes, Barnette still managed to record a 4-1 record with a 2.14 ERA and 32 strikeouts, which included earning the state title-clinching Game 2 win in relief.
Barnette said the key to performing well on the mound despite not being called on as regularly as in years past was due to constant mental preparation.
“Because I’d pitched in a bunch of games at times before, I’ve always gone through in my head what I would need to do if I came in to pitch in this certain situation,” Barnette said. “I was always mentally ready when I was able to come into the game.”
Next season, Barnette will suit up for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. But, much like the way he viewed his role in the lineup, he said that not letting his status as a recruit for one of the nation’s premiere college baseball programs keep him from relying on his teammates was a big key to his success.
“The whole factor of me being signed to a big school, it really didn’t play in at all in how I played because I was so close to everybody on the team that it was a part of every day life,” said Barnette. “Nobody really thought about, ‘Oh, hey, he’s going to Carolina.’ It was just something normal to everybody.”