WENDELL — Last season, the East Wake baseball team finished a woeful 5-17 (4-10 Greater Neuse River 4A) and was overshadowed by rival Knightdale, who made it to the playoffs for a second straight season.
But thanks to three summer standouts, next season could be much different.
Seniors Austin Dickens and Paschal Ammons, along with junior Coley Mizell, led the East Wake summer squad to an 8-3-1 record and a playoff bid – albeit a summer league playoff bid.
“We were able to put together a good summer, and it kind of surprised me how well we finished,” Ammons said. “I definitely think we improved a lot and came together more as a team.”
The stellar summer paid off for the trio, as they were invited to play in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League Showcase All-Star event slated for this Tuesday night at Jack Coombs Field at Duke. Dickens and Ammons were chosen for the Senior Game; Mizell was tapped for the Futures Game.
While the three weren’t selected for the same team, Mizell knows his teammates will be there for support during his earlier game, and he plans to stay around to watch the second contest.
“I’m going to support them and they’re going to support me in anything,” Mizell said. “That definitely gives me comfort, knowing that I have teammates as good as those guys are who are there for me.”
Mizell’s summer has been a whirlwind thus far. The outfielder not only played on the Warriors CCSSL team, but he also played the Carolina Stars, a showcase team in the Raleigh area.
As a member of the Stars, Mizell got the unique opportunity to play for USA Baseball in the 16U Cup. While his team finished 0-4, the junior felt he grew from the experience.
“Games like that and the All-Star game at Duke put pressure on you to get better,” Mizell said. “When you play in atmospheres like that, where you have big-time coaches watching you play, it kind of gives you an idea of what it’s going to be like in the future.
“That’s a really good kind of pressure.”
For Dickens and Ammons, the summer has provided one last window of opportunity to show that they deserve to play at the next level. With both participating in their own showcase events for different teams, Dickens said the time to make an impression is now.
“Playing summer ball at different levels gives me a chance to showcase my skills in front of college coaches that I hope see something in me,” Dickens said. “Getting to play with some of the best of the best helps, but you want to stand out.”
As for Ammons, he has heard from a few different Division III schools and visited Liberty University last week. The senior hopes he can continue to grow from his standout summer to have a chance to play in college.
“I know if I want to get there, I have to keep working as hard as I did this summer,” Ammons said.
“Playing college baseball is a dream regardless of where I go, so I’ll be happy with whatever happens.”
With the three standout performers returning next season, and coupled with several underclassmen who proved they deserve a spot on the roster, Mizell expects to see a turnaround for the Warriors next year.
“We have a young group of freshmen and sophomores who are putting pressure on the juniors and seniors to perform,” he said. “It feels like we’re all connecting as a team and I hope – actually, I know – we’ll carry this on to next season.”
Smith: 919-829-4841; @RCorySmith