Whitacre making a name for himself in summer league
By Chapin Jewell
After completing a stellar career of baseball at Frankfort High School, both as an individual player and as part of a Falcon program that made back to back appearances in the state tournament in Charleston, Zack Whitacre set his sights on playing baseball at Potomac State.
That’s exactly what he did, and then, as Zack states, “Corona hit!”
“We played 23 games in our fall schedule but in the spring season when we really started playing, we got in 12 games, and we were 6-6. I loved every second of it. It’s really different than any other type of baseball because your living every minute of it. At that point, you’re all in or all out. We spend hours everyday at the field when we have practice, and I really liked that part of it,” Whitacre stated.
Whitacre explained that he’s loved every minute of it, but that there is a stark contrast between the high school and college games in terms of competitiveness.
“It’s drastically different. We opened up the first two weekends in South Carolina and we played a couple of teams that had kids who were drafted in the MLB draft. The competition is really good in JUCO right now,” Zack explained.
When Potomac State’s collegiate baseball season came to an abrupt halt, the result of the coronavirus, Whitacre, his teammates, and really every collegiate baseball player, were left wondering about eligibility issues and when they might get to play baseball again.
The NCAA and NCJAA answered the eligibility question by extending an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes affected by the cancellation of their season.
But what about playing baseball again?
For Zack Whitacre, that answer came sooner than he thought. Somewhat unexpectedly, in no time at all, Whitacre found himself six driving hours and 376 miles away from home in Tarboro, North Carolina, playing mainly shortstop and some third base for the Tarboro River Bandits of the Carolina Virginia Summer Collegiate League.
According to their website, “The Carolina Virginia Summer Collegiate League is a wood bat summer baseball league, consisting of players from all levels of college baseball. This includes: NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, Junior Colleges, and NAIA student athletes.” The Carolina Virginia Summer Collegiate League (CVSCL) is composed of six teams from North Carolina and 1 from Virginia. League games include both doubleheader and single game contests and provides high caliber, competitive baseball in fan friendly baseball environments.”
The league offers college players the opportunity to further develop in over forty regular season games over the summer, and the season concludes with a post-season tournament and an All-Star event. Current league teams include the Tarboro River Bandits, Fuquay Varina Twins, Wake Forest Fungo, Carolina Thunder and Carolina Pirates.
Whitacre’s involvement with the Carolina Virginia Summer Collegiate League and Tarboro River Bandits specifically, came about through a connection with the River Bandits and Potomac State baseball coach Doug Little. The River Bandits needed an infielder and Whitacre was contacted by Tarboro to see if he would be interested.
“I talked to them, and they said, ‘if you’re serious about it and want to play, I’ll send you the online contract tonight.’ I ended up signing it after a couple of days. It really came together all at once but it was a great opportunity, so I took it,” Whitacre explained.
According to Zack, “I’m living with a host family down here, basically they’re my family for the summer. It works out perfectly because the lady whose family I’m staying with is the general manager of the team. She’s always around the ballfield and it works out very well.”
Whitacre isn’t the only Catamount player to be playing in a summer league.
According to Zack, “There are actually two other players that are playing in a league near Myrtle Beach, one from Morgantown and one from Charleston.”
Thus far, Whitacre has greatly enjoyed the experience, and the River Bandits and Whitacre are both knocking it out of the park.
“Right now, we’re 10-3. We’ve opened up with exhibition games against teams from the Coastal Plains League, they’re from a league above us. We actually beat one of those teams a couple of days ago,” Whitacre stated.
According to Zack, “I’m playing mostly at shortstop, but I’m also playing at third base. I’m seeing the ball well, and it’s just fun right now. I think that’s what I attribute most of it to. I’m taking the opportunity for what it is. Any baseball I can play right now is more beneficial for me because nobody is really getting the opportunity to play.”
Whitacre is currently leading the River Bandits offensively.
“They do statistics somewhat different. There’s this new thing that the MLB tried out and instead of just regular batting average, they do weighted on base average so it takes more things into account. For example, a double is worth more than a single obviously, and many other specific things are considered,” Zack explained.
Currently, Whitacre is indeed at the top of the River Bandits’ chart in terms of offensive production, with an overall score of 1.55 in the system. In 40 plate appearances, Zack has had 24 quality at bats, an on base percentage of 0.550, a slugging percentage of 0.694, a weighted on base average of 0.538, an on base plus slugging average of 1.344.
If you don’t fully understand those numbers, just know this, Zack Whitacre’s bat is on fire.
Whitacre is convinced his time spent with the Tarboro River Bandits is going to make him a better baseball player.
“Absolutely, definitely. We’ve played some Division I guys already. We faced a pitcher from South Carolina, one from Virginia Tech. A lot of the talent down here is high level stuff. I will absolutely consider doing it again next year. My goal is to work my way up through the leagues. As a whole, I would be the biggest advocate for anyone to try and play in a summer baseball league,” Whitacre explained.
Whitacre’s baseball exploits will certainly not end with the closing of the summer season. Zack has big plans ahead for a successful collegiate baseball career, and one that will see him in time moving up in the ranks.
“If I wasn’t all-in on baseball, I wouldn’t be here right now. I am going back to Potomac State in the fall and spring, and I get my whole year of eligibility back so I still have four years of college eligibility left. From Potomac State, I really want to go on to play Division I baseball,” Zack explained.
Potomac State and the Carolina Virginia Summer League are making Zack Whitacre a better baseball player. The foundation for Whitacre’s success was laid years ago, a foundation that certainly in part includes his role as a leader in Frankfort High School’s successful baseball program.
According to Whitacre, “Frankfort helped a lot in that a lot of high school programs don’t take things 100 percent seriously, or demand an all-in approach. I can confidently say that every game that was played at Frankfort, we weren’t just playing it you know. We had a plan, we stuck to it, we tried to win state championships and that was the goal, along with projecting kids into playing college baseball.”
Zack Whitacre has been all-in with baseball since his days in the Bi-State, now Mineral County Little League. That passion and training extended to his ultra-successful individual and team play as a Frankfort Falcon.
Whitacre made a fantastic choice in joining Doug Little’s successful and top-notch program at Potomac State, and has made another excellent choice in joining the Tarboro River Bandits for collegiate summer league play.
Good choices, dedication, a passion for the game of baseball and drive to succeed are what Zack Whitacre is all about. This will take him places, it already has. His future is limitless.