When baseball players from northern Mecklenburg County have suited up for the North Carolina Tar Heels in recent years, they’ve been a part of something pretty special, most notably trips to the College World Series.
Ryan, a rising senior at North Meck High, last week committed to Carolina, where former Hopewell High standout Michael Russell is the starting shortstop and where former North Meck Viking Michael Cavasinni enjoyed a successful career as an outfielder, finishing up in 2010.
“It just felt like I had to be there,” said Ryan. “My decision was really hard, but I belong there.”
Ryan selected the Tar Heels over fellow baseball powers South Carolina, Clemson and N.C. State. The Tar Heels recruited him as a pitcher and third baseman, though, out of necessity, Ryan played more catcher than third base at North Meck this spring.
Known as an all-around talent, Ryan finished the year with a .579 batting average and had eight doubles, a triple, five home runs and 29 RBIs, while stealing 12 bases in 15 tries. On the mound, he was 5-3 and had an 0.72 ERA, two saves and 109 strikeouts in 68 innings as the Vikings finished third in the I-Meck Conference and returned to the state playoffs after a year away. His fastball has been clocked at 92 miles-per-hour.
Ryan has already drawn the interest of pro scouts, and they have indicated it’s possible he would be drafted high enough next spring to consider foregoing college to begin his pro career.
But if he winds up at Carolina, where the Tar Heels have made six CWS trips since 2006, he would continue what has been a productive pipeline from Huntersville.
Cavasinni, of North Meck’s 2005 class, played in three CWS, despite enduring two season-long injuries, one of which kept him on the bench during a fourth CWS. He hit .287, stole 39 bases and made 174 starts in his Carolina career, hitting a career-best .317 as a freshman and starting a career-high 62 games as a junior. Known for his speed on the base paths, Cavasinni’s 109 career stolen bases at North Meck set a N.C. High School Athletic Association record that still stands.
Russell, who as a high school senior played against Ryan during the 2011 season, just completed his sophomore season at Carolina and made 70 starts this year, most of them at shortstop, as the Tar Heels returned to the CWS after missing it in 2012. A 2010 Hopewell graduate, Russell hit .298 and was one of 22 representatives from the Tar Heel State on the Tar Heels’ roster.
Carolina has built its program with in-state talent, including many players from throughout the Charlotte area and the region, who don’t have to travel far to find a solid program.
“We have a lot of talent in North Carolina,” says Ryan. “I’m happy with where I am.”