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Can Providence High catcher duplicate All-America freshman season?

Providence High sophomore catcher Ray Torres was an All-American as a freshman, when he batted .411 and drove in 23 RBIs. Providence is seeking its second state 4A title in three seasons.
Providence High sophomore catcher Ray Torres was an All-American as a freshman, when he batted .411 and drove in 23 RBIs. Providence is seeking its second state 4A title in three seasons. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The summer before catcher Ray Torres arrived at Providence High in 2016, he played in the U15 USA Baseball team trials, an invitation given to 40 players nationwide.

Torres wasted little time getting started at Providence, becoming only the fifth freshman in Panthers coach Danny Hignight’s 14 years to make the starting lineup. He joined former standouts Richie Shaffer (formerly with Tampa Bay Rays), Brett Austin (Chicago White Sox, Class A), Jackson Campana (played at Clemson) and North Carolina freshman Jake Holtzapple.

Torres was the first freshman to start at catcher for Hignight. He batted .411 and scored 32 runs. He had 23 RBIs and eight stolen bases, playing in a lineup with All-American and all-state players, such as Holtzapple and Logan Davidson, who is at Clemson.

Torres made his mark on a Providence team that went 30-4 and advanced to the 4A West Regional final. He was All-SoMeck8, All-Observer, all-state and named All-America by MaxPreps.

Torres, 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, also committed to LSU, which he said has been “his dream school” since he was 8.

“It was a great honor to accomplish all those things as a freshman and to commit to LSU, but I don’t think it has hit me yet, because I just go out and play how I play,” Torres said. “All the great players around me at Providence, and coach Hignight, have helped make me a better player. But, I know I still have a long way to go.”

Hignight said Torres will work hard to reach his potential.

“Keep in mind, when Ray came here he was 15-year-old kid coming into a nationally ranked team,” said Hignight, who has coached 39 future Division I college players at Providence. “Within a week, I noticed Ray had a great field presence, and in practices and scrimmages was taking command.

“You don’t see that (leadership) from a freshman very often. All year, he did what we asked him to do, made some adjustments and is working his tail off every day to get better.”

While Torres, 16, looks to improve, he has plenty of help on a Providence team that has senior shortstop Satchel Jerzembeck (signed with North Carolina), junior all-state pitcher Timmy Townsend and senior Cameron Bare (signed with Gardner-Webb signee). The Panthers are 87-14 the past three years and won the 2015 4A state championship.

“Our concentration is always on what we can do today to get better,” Hignight said. “Our whole team knows if we are great as a team, then all the other stuff (championships, individual awards) will take of itself.”

Torres agrees.

“It’s great to be able to play with some of the best players in the state every day just within this team,” he said. “We really push each other to get better. I would love to be the best player to come out of Providence and to make it as far as I can in baseball.

“But to accomplish any of that, you have to trust the process and love the grind of working hard every day. That’s my focus.”

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