By Dennis Garcia
There’s something to be said for spending the summer at home while competing in one of the top summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country. The opportunity to improve on the diamond while remaining in an already comfortable surrounding is a scenario most players would relish.
Two of the three University of North Carolina Greensboro players who have signed with the Asheboro Copperheads for the coming season can be considered “local” players while the third has already made himself known to the McCrary Park faithful.
Pitcher Sam Murchison, who graduated from Jordan-Matthews High School, outfielder Ethan McKay, who prepped at Union Pines High School, and outfielder Kennedy Jones, who was a member of the Chesapeake, Va., American Legion baseball team that played at McCrary Park in the Mid-Atlantic Tournament this past August, will all be donning Asheboro colors this summer as the Copperheads fight for a Coastal Plain League title.
Murchison is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore transfer from N.C. Central, Jones is considered one of the top recruits for the Spartans and McKay was a star for the Vikings while there.
“We are excited to have another season with some very talented UNCG guys on our roster,” Asheboro head coach and General Manager Jeremy Knight said. “Coach (Billy) Godwin has been very good to us over the years and 2022 will be no different. All three players signed look as if they will play a major role in the spring season for the Spartans. The two outfielders will likely be starters with Jones being a big-time bat in the lineup and Murchison may work his way into a starter role.”
Murchison spent the 2020-21 season at N.C. Central, the school’s final year of sponsoring a baseball team. He appeared in 18 games, including three starts, posting a 1-3 record with a 6.21 ERA. He did fan 41 in 29 innings of work.
“Things have been going well, I threw quite a bit in the fall,” Murchison said. “I did have a little bit of an arm issue, but that’s all been taken care of. I feel like I am much more prepared and I have more experience under my belt. I am definitely more confident.”
Murchison said he is looking forward to playing close to home.
“That’s going to be huge, my family will be able to watch me play more often,” Murchison said.
From Norfolk, Va., Jones played for the Chesapeake Post 280 team which represented Virginia in the Mid-Atlantic Tournament. Chesapeake dropped its opener, captured a pair of wins, including one over Randolph County Post 45, and then was eliminated by eventual champion Maryland.
“I don’t know the area too well, but I had my car with me and I was able to drive around a bit,” said Kennedy, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder who now lives in Charlotte. “I like the stadium. The ball flies out of there.”
Jones had a solid fall for UNCG before being shut down with a minor injury. He says he’s been cleared and ready to go. Players are off until January, but there are still plenty of workouts and conditioning drills to be completed before the team gets together again.
“My time and time management,” Jones said as to what his biggest adjustments were upon arriving at UNCG. “When you have lifting at 6 a.m., and you have to get up for that, then have class, practice and study hall after… Overall, I was very tired when I got here. I had to get to sleep earlier.”
Jones said he expected the level of talent he faced in the fall.
“It was what I expected, but I feel I can get used to things pretty fast,” said Jones, who added he felt comfortable at all three outfield positions. “I hadn’t seen 96 (miles-per-hour fastball) in a long time. I knew I had to get my feet down and I was able to hit it, actually got a couple of hits.”
Of course, this will be Jones’ first year of summer ball.
“To have fun and eventually be a little better,” he said of his goals. “It’s a very competitive league. I want to have fun and play baseball.”
McKay is expected to fight for playing time as a true freshman at UNCG after a stellar career at Union Pines High School. The 5-11, 185-pounder hit .381 his senior season, a season reduced due to Covid 19.