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How an Independence High baseball player overcame three broken wrists to become a star

Independence High sophomore baseball star Bubba Comer
Independence High sophomore baseball star Bubba Comer

As a sophomore at Independence High School, Bubba Comer hit .448 with 26 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. The left-handed centerfielder was a key player for a Patriots’ team (20-8) that won the 2016 Southwestern 4A regular season and tournament titles.

But just a week before his junior season was about to start, Cramer was hiking at Crowder's Mountain, when he fell and broke his left wrist.

It was the third time he'd broken it.

Comer would be forced to sit and watch his teammates play for at least half of the 2017 regular season.

“To break my wrist, again, just a week before the season was very tough, because we were all so ready to get started (baseball season),” Comer said. “I was coming off a great sophomore season where I was all-conference and I wanted to push for all-state my junior year. But when I broke my wrist I knew all that would have to wait."

All he could think of was getting back.

" I had to think about it as a minor setback," he said. "I knew what the recovery process would be like because I had been through it all before. So, I knew I just had to work really hard and be ready to come back 100 percent as soon as possible.”

While Comer came back after spring break last season and hit .364 in 11 games, he was never quite 100 percent. Independence finished 10-15.

“Last year was definitely disappointing for Bubba, because he is such a gritty and tough player, we really missed that at the top of the lineup (leadoff hitter) and in the field,” said Independence baseball coach, Daniel Cooke, in his sixth season. “…But I think last year (2017) really motivated this team, especially Bubba (Comer) and the seven other seniors. I think they all came into this season (2018) with something to prove.”

After getting off to a slow start at 7-9 going into the final game of Providence’s spring break tournament, Independence has been on fire winning nine of their last 10 games. Their only loss was 4-3 setback at Providence, April 18.

The Patriots play at Providence in a second round playoff game Friday night (May 11) at 6:30.

While Coach Cooke has gotten contributions throughout the lineup, Comer has been the catalyst at the leadoff spot as he hitting for average (.388) and power with 10 doubles, 16 RBI and nine stolen bases.

Comer led Independence (16-10) to wins over Porter Ridge, Hickory Ridge and Myers Park to earn the Southwestern 4A conference tournament title.

Comer went 7-for-12 at the plate in the same three games, with a double, two RBI, six runs scored and two stolen bases.

The Independence senior went 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs, a RBI and a walk to lead his team past host Hickory Ridge (No. 2 seed), 11-3, in the SW4A semifinals, May 1.

Two days later, Comer was even better, going 4-for-5 at the plate with a RBI and three runs as Independence outlasted Myers Park 11-9 in eight innings in SW4A conference championship game.

Comer was named the SW4A tournament’s most valuable player for his performances.

“To win the MVP of the (SW4A) conference tournament was awesome not only for me, but for our whole (team) to win it as a team,” Comer said. “The first part of this season, we struggled a bit. But after spring break, we decided to flip the page and refocus on trying to start playing better and win the conference tournament. We worked really every day in practice and in games and it’s all paying off. For me, to put it altogether and play my best baseball the last (weeks) of my senior year has been great. Our entire team has been play good baseball and that’s been fun to be a part of.”

Comer signed with Guilford Tech Community College this week.

“I’ve been playing baseball ever since I can remember and growing up I always dreamed of playing college ball,” said Comer, whose first team was the Mint Hill Dodgers at age four. “…Baseball could also give me a chance to go to a great college and that’s exciting. Right now, I just want to keep playing (baseball) for as long as I can see where it takes me.”


The VTO Sports Elite 100 Showcase is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mallard Creek High School. Organizers are expecting more than 150 of the top athletes from around the state.

The U.S. National Team program in football will conduct its Charlotte Regional at South Pointe High School

in Rock Hill this weekend. USA Football, the sport’s national governing body and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, organizes U.S. National Teams in football. More than 250 players are expected and college and high school coaches will serve as instructors and scouts. Sessions run 1-3:45 p.m. and 4:45-7 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:15-4:45 p.m. on Sunday.

The U.S. national team regionals are two-day, non-contact events where invited high school and middle school athletes go through skill development exercises and are evaluated. There are 24 regionals nationally and based on regional performance, athletes are selected to represent the U.S. in annual International Bowl games or IFAF World Championships.


Here is the Conference 12 girls all-conference team

Conference 12 Player of the Year: Kaitlin Coleman (Butler HS)

Conference 12 Coach of the Year: Ken Dorcy (Butler HS – 1st Season)

All-Conference 12 First Team:

B: #30 Kaitlyn Coleman - mid - junior

MP: #6 Becca Riopel - attack - junior

SM: #11 Belle Hardwick - Mid - Junior

MP: #14 Tate Mueller - mid - junior

MP: #9 Jocelyn Riopel - defense - senior

AK: #4 Emily Barnes - midfield - junior

AK: #24 Maggie Pontiakos - attack - junior

MP: #26 Landon Sule - goalie - senior

INDY: #10 G. Holmes - mid - senior

MP: #3 Caroline Wise - mid - junior

All-Conference Honorable Mention:

AK: #20 Sierra Meeker - defense - senior

MP: #15 Caroline Dittner - mid/def - sophomore

AK: #15 Madi Hubbard - attack - senior

AK: #9 Jamie Pontiakos - defense - junior

MP: #25 Mary Alice Collins - goalie - sophomore

PHS: #32 Sally O’Dea - mid - junior

PR: #1 Morghan Stone - defense - sophomore

B: #1 Gracey Zostant - mid/attack - junior

B: #26 Julia Christian - defense - senior

B: #18 Colleen Cherian - goalie - senior

Providence Day won the CISAA conference championship. The Chargers (17-3) won their fifth straight game, 18-15 over Greensboro Day in an NCISAA quarterfinal this week.


Covenant Day freshman Sedona Dancu was named an Academic All-American by the National High School Coaches Association. The academic award, in its 25th year, honors student-athletes who excel in and out of the classroom.

Dancu plays soccer and cross-country and is one only seven freshmen to win the award. She has a 3.6 GPA and was named CISAA all-conference and N.C. Independent Schools all-state for the 2017 season. She was named all-conference in soccer this spring.

"Sedona is a gifted athlete who possesses the rare combination of raw talent and mental toughness. She is one of the grittiest runners I've had the privilege to coach, and has the incredible ability to use every ounce of energy inside her every team she competes."

Here are North Meck college signees


Xavier Cunningham-Marshall University

Darryl Thaxton Hampton Univiersity

Jabril Griffin Winston Salem State

Jaelyn Gray Palmore-Palmetto Prep

Daunte Lee- Catawba College


Kavaudrick Worthy-Brunswick Community College

Yancey Hairston-Ferrum College

Malek Luckey-Roanoake College


Jalen Roberts-Piedmont International

Dayana Riera-Pfeiffer University


Deja Middleton-Fayetville State University

Athletes of the week

South Meck's Thomas Umphlett Jill Motsinger, special to the Observer

Thomas Umphlett, South Mecklenburg Baseball: The South Mecklenburg junior went 3-for-5 in upset wins over No. 2-seed, Ardrey Kell and No. 1-seed, Providence to claim the SoMeck7 conference tournament championship.

Umphlett had two RBI hits in both the Ardrey Kell and Providence games to put his team in the lead for good (both times).

South Mecklenburg (20-7, 8-4 in the SoMeck7 conference) beat Ardrey Kell (21-5) 3-1 May 1 and then Providence (22-3) 5-4 May 3 to win the league tournament title.

J.D. Brock, Hough Baseball: The Hough junior led the Huskies to three straight wins last week to claim the I-Meck 4A conference tournament championship.

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Brock, a Clemson University commit, was at his best in the I-Meck 4A conference championship game, where he went 2-for-3 at the plate with a home run and three RBI to lead Hough to a 10-3 win over Lake Norman, May 3.

Brock was 5-for-7 at the plate in the three conference tournament games with a home run, five RBI and five walks.

Brock is hitting .438 with two home runs and 29 RBI for Hough (21-6, 13-1in I-Meck 4A conference) this season.

J.T. Killen, Charlotte Christian Baseball: The Charlotte Christian junior had a monster game on the mound and at the plate to help the Knights (23-7, 10-0 in the CISAA) clinch another CISAA conference title.

Charlotte Chrsitian baseball star JT Killen Chip Case, special to the Observer

Killen was 2-for-3 at the plate with two home runs and four RBI to lead Charlotte Christian to 6-5 win over Providence Day May 4.

Killen also earned the win on the mound in the same game, allowing two earned runs in five innings of work.

Killen, also an all-state football player, is hitting .325 with six home runs and 31 RBI, while going 6-1 with 50 strikeouts in 46 innings of work on the mound this season (2.28 ERA).

Ty Lilly, North Lincoln Baseball: The North Lincoln senior pitcher came up big in his last two starts leading the Knights to both the South Fork 2A regular season tournament titles.

Lilly went 6 2/3 innings in North Lincoln’s 6-2 win over Bandys to clinch the South Fork 2A conference regular season title, April 27. He had eight strikeouts in the same game.

Six days later, Lilly tossed a complete-game, four hitter with four strikeouts to lead North Lincoln to 3-0 win over Bandys in the South Fork 2A conference tournament championship game.

Lilly is 8-0 with 69 strikeouts in 58.1 innings of work, while boasting a 0.72 ERA for North Lincoln (21-2, 13-1 in the South Fork 2A conference).

Lyle Holland, Freedom baseball: The Freedom junior pitcher has allowed just one earned run and four hits in his last two starts on the mound.

Holland tossed a no-hitter in the Patriots’ 1-0 win over West Caldwell, April 26.

In his next start, Holland was perfect through the first three innings, before allowing just one earned run on four hits in a complete-game effort in a 9-2 win at Hickory, May 1. Holland was 3-for-5 at the plate in the same game.

Holland has five wins and 77 strikeouts on the mound for Freedom (13-12, 6-8 in Northwestern 3A/4A conference) this season.

Caleb Peschel, Fred T. Foard Baseball: The Fred T. Foard junior tossed a no-hitter in a 3-0 win over Hibriten, May 3.

Peschel retired the first 13 batters in the same game.

Two days earlier, Tigers’ junior Jeremiah Wike also pitched a gem, throwing a complete-game, two-hitter with 15 strikeouts to help Fred T. Foard (11-9, 8-4) in the Northwest Foothills 2A conference) to a 5-1 win over Patton.

Ben Woodruff, Hough golf: The Hough senior captain shot a 68 to win the 4A West Regional title at Mooresville Golf Club May 1.

Woodruff, a Charlotte 49ers’ signee, also led his Husky team to a 4A West Regional championship, where Hough (286) was seven shots better than the field.

Hough also got strong regional performances from Thomas Deal (70, tied for 2nd-place), Ayush Bodhale (73, tied for 5th) and Zach Gilbert (75, tied for 11th).

Christian Jarrell, Community School of Davidson Golf: The Community School of Davidson sophomore led his Spartan team to the 1A Midwest Regional title, as he shot a 73 to earn the 1A Midwest Regional medalist honors at Cedarbrook Country Club in Elkin, May 1.

Jarrell, who averages a 37.0 (per nine) this season, won the regional title on the second hole of a playoff with Lincoln Charter’s Chase Cheatham.

Jarrell and company won the 1A Midwest Regional by 16 shots and also got strong performances from teammates Carter Cook (75, tied for 3rd-place), Alex Williams (78, tied for 8th) and Cole Vahey (79, tied for 10th).

Emerson Douds, Weddington Track: The Weddington junior earned the Southern Carolinas’ conference championship’s MVP honors, winning the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, while helping the Warriors’ 4 X 400-relay team to a record-breaking victory as well.

Douds also helped his Weddington boys’ track team to a SCC (team) title, beating the field by 59 points.

Douds teamed with Kyle Durham, Denison Livingston and Mitch Wolverton to win the SCC title in the 4 X 400-meter relay in a school-record of 3:22.05.

Douds has the No. 1, 200-meter dash (21.23) in the state this outdoor season, according to He also has the No. 5, 400-mter dash (48.60) and No. 11, 100-meter dash (10.71) this season.

Girls’ Athletes of the Week

Ayden Yates
Lake Norman Charter girls soccer star Ayden Yates is a Tuesday Charlotte Observer top performer Courtesy of Chuck Masterton

Ayden Yates/Kasey Hahn, Lake Norman Charter Soccer: The Lake Norman Charter sophomore duo has been lighting up scoreboards all season, but has been particularly potent of late with a combined 17 goals and 17 assist in the last four games to help the Knights keep their unbeaten (17-0-1, 14-0 in the South Fork 2A conference) intact.

Yates, a Virginia Tech commit, had 10 goals and nine assists in the last four games, including five more goals and six more assists in wins over Bandys, Newton Conover and West Lincoln last week.

Hahn, also a college recruit according to Coach David Crutchfield, added four goals and six assists in three games last week. Hahn set the single-season school record with her 24th assist in 9-0 win over Newton Conover, May 2.

Kasey Hahn.jpg
Lake Norman Charter soccer star Kelsey Hahn Charlie Pledger

Yates has 34 goals and 23 assists, while Hahn has 16 goals and 24 assists this season.

Julia Gass, Charlotte Latin Soccer: The Charlotte Latin senior co-captain helped the Hawks’ defense record back-to-back shutouts of Cannon School and Covenant Day as they clinched another perfect CISAA conference record (16-1-1, 10-0 in CISAA) and league title.

Gass, a center back, is a major reason why Charlotte Latin has allowed on 11 goals all season, recording 10 shutouts in 18 games.

She has a lot of help on the back line with juniors, Caroline Juckett and Olivia Lowe and freshman, Tyler Michelle Neltner-Divine.

Gass, who will study engineering at Wake Forest University in college, is hoping to help the Charlotte Latin girls’ soccer team to their fourth straight NCISAA 3A state championship later this month.

Emma Wakeman, Hickory Ridge Soccer: The Hickory Ridge sophomore goalkeeper had a big week in goal with 19 saves and two shutouts to help the Ragin’ Bulls to wins over Butler and Independence on back-to-back nights.

Wakeman started the week with nine saves in a 1-0 win over Butler, April 30.

The next night, Wakeman was even better with 10 saves, including two on penalty kicks at Independence. Wakeman also scored on a penalty kick to give Hickory Ridge the win over the Patriots.

Wakeman, a Charlotte 49ers’ commit, showed her versatility in the final game of the week, with two goals and assists while play in the field in a 7-0 win against Garinger.

Wakeman has 127 saves and five shutouts in goal for Hickory Ridge (13-5-2, 12-2 in the SW4A conference) this season.

Sierra Gilley, East Lincoln Soccer: The East Lincoln senior centerfielder had a record-breaking week as she led the Mustangs to South Fork 2A conference victories over Bandys, West Lincoln and Newton Conover.

Gilley started off the week with a goal (the game-winner) and an assist in a 3-0 wins at Bandys, April 1. Gilley’s assist (the 43rd of her career) gave her the East Lincoln School record (career assists).

The next day, Gilley came back with two more assists in a 3-2 victory at West Lincoln.

Gilley capped her week with another goal and another assist in a 3-0 win over Newton Conover, putting East Lincoln (13-7, 11-3 in the South Fork 2A conference) in second-place in the league standings behind Lake Norman Charter.

Gilley, who will study computer science and statistics at Clemson University, has 58 goals and 46 assists in her East Lincoln soccer career.

Rachel Johnson, Metrolina Christian Girls Soccer: The Metrolina Christian eighth-grader helped the Warriors to a Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC) tournament title last week with two goals and two assists.

Johnson had a goal and an assist to account for both goals in the 2-1 MAC semifinal win over Hickory Grove, May 1.

Two days later, Johnson had another goal and another assist to lead Metrolina Christian to a 3-1 victory over Gaston Day in the MAC championship game. The Warriors (14-5, 9-0 in the MAC) also won the MAC regular season title.

Johnson, a two-time all MAC selection already, had 12 goals and eight assist for Metrolina Christian this season.

Elly Huecker, Lake Norman Softball: The Lake Norman junior centerfielder is having a monster season for the Wildcats despite not having played softball for two years previously.

Huecker is hitting .534 with three home runs, 25 RBI, 18 stolen bases, eight doubles and five triples this season for Lake Norman (18-5, 11-1 in the I-Meck 4A).

Last week, Huecker was 5-for-6 at the plate in helping lead the Wildcats to the I-Meck 4A conference championship game.

Huecker was 2-for-2 with three runs and three stolen bases in a 7-4 victory over North Mecklenburg in the I-Meck 4A semifinals, May 1.

Two nights later, Huecker went 3-for-4 with three singles and a stolen base in the 7-3 loss to Mooresville in the I-Meck 4A championship game.

Gabby Holloway, Cannon School Softball: The Cannon School sophomore had a big week on the mound and at the plate, leading the Cougars (9-5, 7-1 in the CISAA) to wins over Charlotte Latin, Charlotte Country Day and Providence Day to clinch the CISAA regular season title.

Holloway started her week with five strikeouts in two innings to help Cannon to a 12-0 win over Charlotte Latin, May 1.

Two days later, Holloway went 3-for-4 at the plate with a single, a triple and a home run, while also striking out nine batters in four innings to earn the win on the mound in the Cougars’ 15-5 win at Charlotte Country Day.

Holloway finished off a strong week tossing on a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts in five innings of work to lead Cannon to an 11-1 victory at Providence Day. She also went 2-for-3 at the plate in the same game with a double, a home run and five RBI.

Holloway, a University of Pittsburgh commit, is hitting .553 with six home runs and 20 RBI this season, and also has 139 strikeouts in 72 innings of work on the mound.

Becca Riopel, Myers Park Lacrosse: The Myers Park junior midfielder had 17 goals, seven groundballs and 13 draw controls in the last two, Mustangs’ wins.

Riopel scored nine goals, had four groundballs, eight draw controls and caused three turnovers in in Myers Park’s 15-10 win over Ardrey Kell in the Conference 12 championship game, April 27.

She came back one week later in Myers Park’s playoff opener (second round, they got a first round bye) another big game with eight goals, three groundballs and five draw controls in a 18-8 victory over Hickory, May 4.

Riopel has 53 goals, 28 groundballs and 82 draw controls for Myers Park (11-7, 6-0 in Conference 12) this season.

Want to nominate an athlete?: Athletes of the week highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through May 6. The goal is to recognize all athletes in all sports, both the most accomplished and the underrated or underappreciated players. If you want to suggest someone to be included in the Athletes of the week column, send email to Jay Edwards at Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.