Ardrey Kell baseball coach Hal Bagwell still remembers the first day he heard Aaron Pilkington’s name like it was yesterday.
Bagwell was walking out with his son, Jake, at Park Sharon Athletic Association Little League at Quail Hollow Middle School nearly a decade ago, when he heard the crack of a bat and saw a player who turned out to be Pilkington hit a monster home run.
“I remember I was just walking out to my car and passed another field where (Pilkington) hit a home run that must have cleared the fence by 50 feet, and you don’t see that too often in Little League,” Bagwell recalls, noting Pilkington probably was about 8 years old. “One of the parents near me said ‘That was the (Aaron) Pilkington kid, and that is his third home run of the game.’ I knew he was going to be a special player right then.”
Of course, at the time Bagwell had no idea if he would ever coach Pilkington.
Pilkington actually went to Marvin Ridge High as a freshman before transferring to Ardrey Kell last school year.
Ironically, in his first season playing for Bagwell in a loaded Knights’ lineup, Pilkington lived up to his coach’s previous billing and then some.
Pilkington had a season for the ages, leading the nation with 19 home runs, while hitting .400 with 43 RBIs for an Ardrey Kell team that went 28-3 and advanced to the 4A state quarterfinals.
As a 5-foot-10, 215-pound sophomore, he earned nearly every distinction in the process, garnering All-American honors from Baseball America, Louisville Slugger and more as well as all-state, all-region and all-conference honors. Pilkington also was named The Charlotte Observer Player of the Year.
Pilkington also committed to College of Charleston this fall.
But if you think all of his success is going to go to his head. Think again.
“Honestly, I have no clue all the awards and honors that I got, I probably couldn’t name but two or three of them, maybe,” Pilkington said. “Last season was last season, and I have put that behind me. I just want to go play baseball with my team and try to help them win.”
Pilkington, 17, will take on a new role for Ardrey Kell as he is the only starter back from a team that won the SoMeck 8 4Aregular-season and tournament titles.
The junior will be all over the field as he can play catcher, third base, first base, outfield and will be one of the Knights’ top starting pitchers.
“There’s not much he can’t do on the baseball field,” Bagwell said. “…To be honest, I think he’s got a pulse of about 20 beats a minute. He’s so laid back, he’s just goes about his business and gets it done.”
Pilkington knows he will be a marked man after his monster numbers last year, probably not getting that many good pitches to hit, but he will keep the same approach at the plate.
“I’ve always had a confidence at the plate that I am better than the pitcher and that he can’t get me out,” said Pilkington, a Louisville Slugger first-team All-American. “For me that is what works, and so I’m not going to change anything now. I just want to see the ball, hit the ball and help my team win.”
For a player who had “one of the best high school seasons ever,” according to Bagwell, Pilkington hasn’t changed at all.
“Aaron probably had the best single season anyone has ever had in the Charlotte area, and I think that is very impressive considering all the great players who have played here,” Bagwell said. “…But if you talked to him, you wouldn’t know he’s accomplished anything, because he doesn’t focus on all that stuff (accolades). Aaron is just a baseball player. That in itself, is what makes him such a great player.”
Baseball Players to Watch
Aaron Pilkington, Ardrey Kell, Jr.: Louisville Slugger preseason All-American, reigning Observer player of the year led the nation with 19 homers last year, but College of Charleston commit will lead a young team that he said has “a lot of potential.”
Jackson Kowar, Charlotte Christian, Sr.: Emerged as an All-American last season, going 10-1 with 0.79 ERA and school-record 131 strikeouts, now Clemson signee looks for a repeat performance as he looks to lead Knights to 4th straight state title.
Max Wotell, Marvin Ridge, Sr.: Arizona signee, U18 USA National team member (First Team Perfect Game/Louisville Slugger preseason, All-American) has been contacted by 22 of 32 major league teams, with eight organizations making a home visits, but looking for a big spring for Mavericks with a fastball that has hit 92 mph.
Josh Hiatt, Providence, Sr.: North Carolina signee is a preseason Louisville Slugger All-American and is one of the Panthers’ five Division I recruits, including seniors Andrew Fishel (Ohio State signee), Andrew Moritz (UNC Greensboro signee), Austin Leonard (Davidson signee) and junior Jake Holtzapple (North Carolina commit).
Josh Ladowski, Lake Norman, Sr.: N.C. Gatorade football player of the year is a North Carolina baseball signee and a .338 career hitter for a talented Wildcats’ team that also boasts senior Zach Little (Wingate signee).
Dupree Hart, Northwestern, Sr.: Like Ladowski, Hart is an all-state football player but also is all-state performer in baseball and Region III 4A Player of the Year hit .469 while scoring 40 runs for the state runner-up Trojans. He is a College of Charleston signee.
Drew Ober, Hough, Sr.: Charlotte 49ers’ signee looks to be even better than his .386, two home-run, 30-RBI and eight-triple season from a year ago.
Garrett Davila, South Point, Sr.: Tennessee signee exploded onto the scene last year as the left-hander threw 88 strikeouts with a 1.10 ERA and should be even better this season.
Max Bazin, South Mecklenburg, Sr.: Davidson signee is one of the most versatile players on a talented Sabres team with standouts like Lawson McArthur (N.C. State commit) and Eric Jones (Davidson signee).
David Nash, Piedmont, Sr.: All-state pitcher, Wingate signee back to lead a Panthers team that has been to two straight state championship series (2013 2A state champs; 2014 3A state runner-up).