Jake Barbee was disappointed with his senior-year performance at Hickory Ridge High.His .372 batting average, along with 32 runs, 17 RBI and two home runs, weren’t up to his standard, he said.“I just don’t think I had my best year at the plate,” said Barbee, who had hit better than .450 as a sophomore and junior.But his play still impressed coaches, leading to Barbee’s election to the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association’s 3A all-state team.“It’s probably the biggest honor I’ve had in a long time,” the 18-year-old said. “It was a goal since I got to high school. I just didn’t think I was going to do it.”Hickory Ridge coach Branden Knapp said the recognition was well-deserved.“Jake’s been one of the most consistent hitters we’ve had in our program,” he said. “He’s just one of the best players I’ve had the pleasure to coach.”Barbee said being away from the baseball field for a few months before the season, as he recovered from a football injury, may have affected his play at the plate.Knapp said Barbee also had to adjust to a new position this year. He volunteered to move from his natural catcher position to third base to fill a need for the Ragin’ Bulls.Barbee said the biggest transition was learning to take his time with his throws, since he was used to gunning the ball from behind home plate to catch runners trying to steal second base.But Knapp said the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder thrived at his new role.“He had a smooth transition,” said Knapp. “He made an unbelievable job and made some great plays for us.”Knapp said Barbee, who’s spending part of his summer playing for the Concord Post 51 American Legion team before enrolling at Liberty University, also stood out with his hard work.“He’s just 100 percent all the time,” he said.Knapp said he and his coaching staff sometimes joked that Barbee was hurt so often throughout his time at Hickory Ridge because he went so hard at every practice and every game.Barbee also broke his thumb and arm and has had some ongoing elbow pain. But he hasn’t let that slow him down.“He’s just a competitor,” said Post 51 coach Tommy Small, who also coaches Mount Pleasant High. “He’s struggled at the plate just because he’s not healthy, but he still gives you everything he has.”Small said Barbee was a threat each time the Tigers faced Hickory Ridge.“He was that team’s anchor,” Small said. “We tried to pitch around him as much as we could, because of what he’s made of. … He’s definitely a kid you want to have on your team, not the kid you want to face.”Post 51 sees ups, downsConcord Post 51 finished league play 2-6, which Small attributed to a lack of effort.“It’s been really up and down. It changes from game to game,” he said. “We have a ton of talent. … When they’re all focused and play up to their ability, they can be the best team on the field any given day.”Barbee said the team was focused early in the year, but some players have been “too relaxed” in the final stretch of the season. Post 51 secured a playoff spot by defeating Kannapolis Post 115 (0-8 in conference) last month. Concord was slated to face Rowan County, which went into the postseason on an eight-win streak, in the first round of the playoffs last week.With no expectations and not having to play for the attention of college coaches anymore, Barbee said, he’s out on the field trying to improve his game before he heads north to Virginia to continue his playing career.“I feel like I’m doing better,” he said. “I’m just trying to have some fun.”Bigham also honoredRecent Northwest Cabarrus graduate Tanner Bigham was also named to the 3A all-state team.Bigham, who will continue his baseball career at North Carolina, was named the South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year after hitting better than .500 with four home runs and 22 RBI for the Trojans.
Tuesday, Jul. 09, 2013
Ragin’ Bull grad and Legion player named to all-state 3A team
Tovar: 704-358-5941; Twitter: @sergiotovar
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