Blake's story scans the state
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, April 22, 2018
There has been a lot of attention on college baseball in North Carolina this year, highlighted by East Carolina, N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke all projected at this point in the season to host NCAA regionals.
Pitt Community College lead pitcher Andrew Blake, who signed with N.C. State in November, is plenty busy and focused on getting the Bulldogs back to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series for the second straight year.
Blake, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, also has the luxury of knowing his next baseball destination. That is often not available to JUCO athletes and it is providing Blake with a neat opportunity as he routinely follows the Wolfpack, which is ranked as high as No. 2 in the country and is playing at Duke this weekend as PCC is at rival Lenoir CC and came into the series riding an eight-game win streak.
“I definitely keep up with them and try to watch as many of their games as I can online and on TV,” Blake said of NCSU. “Obviously I am playing for this team first and with these guys and trying to do my best here so that once I get to State I can make the most of that opportunity with them.”
Opportunity is a key part of Blake’s story.
His first collegiate chance out of Ronald Reagan High School near Winston-Salem came from UNC Wilmington as a preferred walk-on, but Blake was not admitted to UNCW as a student.
That led him to PCC, which went 42-9 a year ago and 1-2 in the World Series tournament in Enid, Okla. Blake’s season included pitching in Pitt’s final game, and he described his entire freshman campaign as “OK,” before making a big leap last fall that led to N.C. State and others schools expressing interest.
Blake, who said he consistently is throwing 90-92 miles per hour as a sophomore with a high of 94, is set to graduate from PCC in May.
Coach Tommy Eason has been at Pitt since 2005 and has seen through the years how junior college rosters can mesh at different rates. He stressed again this week that it often takes some players like Blake who are a Division I bound mixing with others who have not yet figured out their future plans for things to work at the rate that the Bulldogs desire and expect.
Blake came into the weekend as the team leader with 43 innings pitched and 57 strikeouts -— compared to 12 walks — on a sophomore-heavy pitching staff.
“He has matured from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint, and some kids don't get those kind of God’s gifts that he has been given,” Eason said. “I think he’s grown like two inches this year, so it’s crazy that he is still growing.
“With physicality and in the weight room, he’s done a lot of good things and worked hard to get where he’s at. Hats off to him for the work that he’s put into it.”
PCC will soon hit a big end to the regular season with six home games from April 28 to May 6.
N.C. State is in the midst of a North Carolina-heavy and intriguing schedule with this weekend’s series against Duke followed by hosting No. 11 ECU on Tuesday and No. 15 UNC next weekend.
“I think it is awesome that North Carolina is being represented like this on the national stage with baseball,” Blake said. “Being that I’m going to State and seeing them beat teams like Carolina and playing ECU coming up this next week and other top teams, it is really cool just seeing North Carolina getting that kind of attention.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.