Monday, 13 May 2019 21:00

Absolute Bananas: Baucom named PBC 'Player of the Year'; invited to play in Savannah

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Former Raider Ethan Baucom was named the 2019 Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year. Former Raider Ethan Baucom was named the 2019 Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year. Photo courtesy of Todd Anderson, UNCP associate athletic director.

PEMBROKE — Richmond Raider baseball alumni Ethan Baucom put together a monster season this spring at UNC-Pembroke, and the red-shirt junior topped it off in style late last week.

Baucom, who graduated from Richmond in 2015, was named the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year on Thursday. The Braves’ starting center fielder became the second UNCP player in program history to earn the award, the first being current hitting coach Collins Cuthrell (2015).

One of three Braves players named First Team All-PBC, Baucom hit his way toward the top of some of the most notable offensive categories in NCAA Division II baseball in 2019. He currently leads D-II with 71 RBI, and his 20 home runs are not only a single-season personal best, but are also fourth best in the country.

“My coach texted me congrats that I had made First Team and got Player of the Year, and the first thing I did was call my dad,” Baucom explained. “It shocked me a little bit because of how our season went as a team.

“I remember thinking in the middle of the season that it could happen,” he added of the accolade. “But then we didn’t make the conference tournament, so I wasn’t expecting it. The award opened my eyes to how great of a season I really had.”

While the Braves went 21-27 overall, Baucom started all 48 games for UNCP. Helping him earn the Player of the Year recognition was his .306 batting average, 29 extra-base hits and 57 runs scored (first on the team).

Entering his junior season, Baucom had hit 20 combined homers -- 10 in each of his first two seasons. In 2019, he doubled his career longball total to 40 bombs. He also led the Braves in slugging percentage (.658) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.067), and was fourth on the team with 60 hits.

Rounding out his list of impressive numbers are Baucom’s team-leading 23 multiple-RBI performances and 19 multiple hit games. His runs scored, slugging percentage, home runs and RBI total are new career bests.

His 20 homers were just five shy of tying Cuthrell’s school record set in 2015, and Baucom was eight RBI short of tying former teammate Trey Jacobs’ all-time program record of 79, which was set last season.

What the 6-3, 225-pound Rockingham native attributes to his successful season was good old-fashioned hard work, along with a game plan for every pitch with the help of Cuthrell. And hitting the weightroom.

“My freshman year, people didn’t know who I was and didn’t pitch around me,” Baucom said. “Last year I hit hitter’s pitches, and I was told during my exit meeting to work on my approach this year.

“Coach Collins and I have very similar attributes,” he continued. “With his help, and help from Coach (Jeff) Jefferson and head coach (Paul) O’Neil, we tweaked my swing. But now I was  going to the plate with a plan every pitch, and I’m committed to that plan.”

He added that he works out “every single day,” teaming up with senior roommate Luke Jackson to slam the iron. Together the pair “grinded it out” and “felt better” physically as the season went along.

Ethan Baucom during his Richmond Raider career. Photo courtesy of Karen Everett.

While his season at Pembroke might be finished, Baucom is gearing up for the ultimate college baseball experience with the Savannah Bananas this summer in Georgia. A member of the 16-team Coastal Plain League, the Bananas are a part of one of the premiere prospect wood-bat summer leagues in the country.

Launched in 2016, the Bananas have gained national recognition not only for their players and success in the diamond, but also for fostering an electric atmosphere that’s comparable to minor league ballparks. Savannah won the CPL championship in its inaugural season.

“I’ve never played summer ball, but this year my stats were good enough to get invited,” Baucom said. “I got a lot of help from my coaches, and Savannah was very welcoming from the beginning.

“The CPL is a big pitching league, so I’ll get to face a lot of good pitchers,” he added. “Savannah is a beautiful city. I’m looking forward to living with a host family and getting a chance to play.”

Baucom said he’s one of just a few Division II players on this summer’s team, as many of his soon-to-be teammates are Division I baseball players. He added that it “says a lot about how my hard work has paid off.”

The Bananas play nearly every day of the week, and the 55-game season is something that Baucom believes will test his testament to the sport.

“I think playing there will show me how much love I have for the game,” Baucom said. “It’s a different atmosphere, and it’s going to tell me if I’m the real deal.

“I’ll be facing more consistent pitchers, and they’ll all be new guys,” he noted. “I want to see how I play with them … Coach O’Neil is big about being a good teammate no matter what the situation is.”

Bacuom is most remembered as being a crucial part of the Richmond Raiders’ success during his junior (2014) and senior (2015) seasons. In the 2014 NCHSAA state championship series against West Forsyth High School, Baucom blasted a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game and eventually force a third game.

A few games prior, he drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning against Millbrook High School to send the Raiders to the championship series. While his Richmond career isn’t far removed, he’s “come a long way” since dawning the Kelly green and gold.

With one season left to play for UNCP, he hopes to keep his foot on the gas.

“I set my goals at beginning of this season to hit 15 home runs, bat .350 and get 70 RBI,” Baucom explained. “I got two of the three, so for my senior year I want to set obtainable goals. I’d like to hit 15-20 homers and get 80 RBI. There were some times this season where I wasn’t able to bring in runs, so I want to get better with that.”

If all goes according to plan, Baucom can finish his career atop three of the Braves’ all-time records. Baucom needs six more homers, 35 runs scored and 37 RBI to take over the top spots in the program’s record books.

“There’s a lot of credit to be given to my coaches,” Baucom closed. “We have a hell of a coaching staff, and there are no gaps in it. They’ve all helped me get to where I am today.”

Baucom is set to leave for Savannah on May 25.

Ethan Baucom's stats and information provided by UNCP's baseball website.

Last modified on Monday, 13 May 2019 22:05
Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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