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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Allie Tops Big Class at North Carolina

Jim Ecker        
North Carolina Coach Mike Fox signed eight players to athletic scholarships two years ago, but six of them turned pro and never played a game for the Tar Heels. That’s the danger of college recruiting. It’s also one of the reasons Fox signed a big class of 16 players this fall.

“We have to play catch-up a little bit,” he told Perfect Game USA.

There’s no guarantee the Tar Heels will get all 16 members of this class, either, which is a common problem around the country with players who could be top picks in the major league draft next June. You want to sign the best players you can, but it comes with a risk attached.

“That’s the question now in college baseball recruiting, how you can make all the pieces fit,” said Fox. “You have to go for some of the top players out there, because you have to have the talent to win. It’s kind of a delicate balance as to how many of these young men you try to sign.”

Losing one or two players is bad enough, but losing six out of eight can be really tough.

“That hurt,” said Fox. “That’s the first time we’ve really been hurt here in that regard. It’s the toughest part of what college baseball coaches do at this level.”

North Carolina has made four straight trips to the College World Series in 2006, ’07, ’08 and ’09, so the Tar Heels found a way to survive losing all those recruits two years ago. Nonetheless, it’s a hard way to do business.

North Carolina signed five of the top-50 players in the country this fall, according to Perfect Game. All 16 of its new players are ranked in the top-500, and they’ve got other talented players who could join the program as walk-ons, including football player Ty Linton.

“We feel as good as we can at this point, being this time of the year,” said Fox.

He’ll feel a lot better on Aug. 15 if all of them become Tar Heels. That’s the deadline for signing a pro baseball contract.

Stetson Allie, a hard-throwing right-hander from Ohio, is perhaps the top recruit in Carolina’s new class, and perhaps the most intriguing. He’s been clocked at 100 mph, but can be a little wild when he throws as hard as he can. He pitched better in the Aflac All-American game in August when he dialed it back to “only” 97 mph, and he’s also an accomplished corner infielder with a good bat.

“He’s a unique talent, there’s no question about that,” said Fox. “Just his physical appearance. You look at him and think, ‘He’s only 17 or 18 years old.’ He’s really put together.”

Allie fills out a uniform at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Fox doesn’t know if Allie will be a starting pitcher, a closer, a third baseman, a first baseman or a combo player for the Tar Heels. And there’s no guarantee Allie will enroll at Carolina, considering he’s ranked as the No.8 player in the graduating class of 2010 by Perfect Game.

Fox said Allie’s position at North Carolina would be determined by what happens in practice next fall. “We sort of let the players dictate that,” he said.

Fox said he’s used corner infielders as relief pitchers before, and he’s intrigued by a 6-4, 225-pound closer who could come into a game and throw bullets. “Games are won in the bullpen,” he noted.

North Carolina’s other top-50 recruits are Andrew Smith, a right-hander from Roswell, Ga.; Connor Narron, an infielder from Goldsboro, N.C.; Sean Coyle, an infielder from Chalfont, Pa.; and Jake Cole, a right-hander from Tucson, Ariz.

The Tar Heels also signed Matt Roberts, a catcher from Graham, N.C.; Jordan Tabakman, a right-hander from Pompton Plains, N.J.; Parks Jordan, an infielder from Winston-Salem, N.C.; Thomas Zengel, a first baseman/outfielder from High Bridge, N.J.; Hobbs Johnson, a left-hander from Rocky Mount, N.C.; Shane Taylor, a right-hander from Mullica Hill, N.J.: Tate Parrish, a pitcher/first baseman/outfielder from Smithfield, N.C.; Jeff Bouton, an outfielder from Wilmington, N.C.; Brian Holberton, a catcher from Charlotte, N.C.; Kent Emmanuel, a pitcher from Woodstock, Ga.; and Colin Moran, an infielder from Rye. N.Y.

North Carolina also has commitments from Linton, an outfielder/pitcher from Matthews, N.C., who is ranked No.42 by Perfect Game; Kyle Hufham, a pitcher/outfielder from Delco, N.C.; and Brandon Huffman, a third baseman/pitcher from Hope Mills, N.C. Hufham and Huffman are ranked by Perfect Game as well.

“We are very excited about this recruiting class,” said Fox, who has a 500-208-1 record in 11 years at North Carolina. “We believe we have met many of our needs for the future with this group.”
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