Summer Collegiate : : Story
Monday, October 08, 2012

Southern League Prospect Reports

Allan Simpson        

Official League Website
Southern Collegiate League top 10 prospects (list)
Perfect Game Summer Collegiate top prospect coverage

By any name, the Ballantyne Smokies are the longest continuous-operating franchise in the Southern Collegiate League. But prior to 2012, the Smokies had never won a league title.

That all changed this summer as the Smokies, who were formed in 1999 as the Carolina Sox, later became the Carolina Thunder and were known in 2011 as the Carolina Stingers before being sold to a group that includes Washington Nationals infielder Chad Tracy and subsequently relocated to suburban Charlotte, won the SCBL championship. The Smokies left little doubt that they were the best team in the league in 2012 as they posted the best regular-season record at 25-16 and swept to the league title by beating the Carolina Chaos 12-2 in the deciding game of the best-of-3 championship series.

Two players with local ties, outfielder Brandon Harris (Montreat, N.C.) and catcher Brian Holberton (North Carolina), were instrumental in the team’s success. Harris shattered the league record for homers in a season (15), while Holberton hit .402-6-31 and finished in the top three in batting average, homers and RBIs. Holberton then earned MVP honors in the playoffs by going 11-for-18 with eight runs scored and eight RBIs. In the process, he was selected the league’s top prospect and five of the 10 spots on the accompanying list are occupied by Ballantyne players.


Year League Established:
States Represented in League: North Carolina, South Carolina.
No. of Teams in League: 7 (8 in 2011).
Regular-Season Champions: South—Ballantyne Smokies (25-16); North—Morganton Aggies (18-20).
Post-Season Champion: Ballantyne Smokies.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: None.
No. 1 Prospect, 2011: David Lee, of, Lake Norman Copperheads (Bethune-Cookman; played in Florida Collegiate Summer League in 2012).
First 2011 Player Selected, 2012 Draft: Tyler Tewell, of, Pineville Pioneers (Appalachian State; Braves/14th round).


Batting Average:
Jonathan Wandling, of/rhp, Carolina Chaos (.405).
Slugging Percentage: Brandon Harris, of, Ballantyne Smokies (.847).
On-Base Average: Jace Whitley, 3b, Statesville Owls; Brian Holberton, c, Ballantyne Smokies (.504).
Home Runs: Brandon Harris, of, Ballantyne Smokies (15).
RBIs: Brandon Harris, of, Ballantyne Smokies (36).
Stolen Bases: Cody Reid, of, Asheville Redbirds (23).


Ryan Woodring, rhp, Asheville Redbirds; Olen Little, rhp, Ballantyne Smokies (5).
ERA: Olen Little, rhp, Ballentyne Smokies (2.23).
Saves: Alex Posey, rhp, Carolina Chaos; Grant Fisher, rhp, Ballantyne Smokies (4).
Strikeouts: Ryan Woodring, rhp, Asheville Redbirds (50).


Best Athlete:
Tyler Poole, rhp, Lake Norman Copperheads
Best Hitter: Brian Holberton, c, Ballantyne Smokies
Best Power: Brandon Harris, of, Ballantyne Smokies
Fastest Base Runner: James Fowlkes, of, Ballantyne Smokies
Best Defensive Player: Ryan Hodge, ss, Lake Norman Copperheads
Best Velocity: Tyler Poole, rhp, Lake Norman Copperheads
Best Breaking Ball: Patrick Corbett, rhp, Lake Norman Copperheads
Best Command: Jeff Springs, lhp, Pineville Pioneers


1. BRIAN HOLBERTON, c, Ballantyne Smokies (North Carolina/JR in 2013)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Signed by North Carolina as a catcher out of a Charlotte high school, Holberton has yet to catch a single game for the Tar Heels in his first two collegiate seasons. Yet he took over the catching duties this summer for the Smokies and acted like he had never been away from the position as he displayed solid receiving and blocking actions behind the plate, along with consistent sub-2.0 pop times. Holberton has superior athletic ability for a catcher and is so versatile that he conceivably could play any position on the field. He has earned most of his playing time in the field at UNC at second base and in the outfield, and earned second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors as a sophomore in a DH role after hitting .297-1-15 and starting 29 games overall. In regular duty this summer for the Smokies, Holberton showed solid gap-to-gap pop and was second in the SCBL in batting (.402) and home runs (6), and third in RBIs (31). He also shared the league lead in on-base average (.504) while drawing 20 walks and striking out just 14 times. Holberton played an instrumental role in leading his team to a league championship by going 11-for-18 in four playoff games; in the deciding game, he had three hits, including a homer, and drove in five runs. With the departure of UNC four-year starting catcher Jacob Stallings, Holberton’s strong summer performance should put him squarely in the mix to take over catching duties in 2013 for the Tar Heels, though there are indications that he is equally likely to spend time in the outfield.

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