LA GRANGE- North Lenoir’s Jackson Massey is the 2018 Kinston Free Press All Area Baseball Coach of the Year.
The second-year coach guided his team to a 20-7 record along with a ride to the NCHSAA 2A Eastern Regional Final.
“I wouldn’t be able to be here without the players, and we had a really, really, really good group of guys who were successful,” Massey said. “We’d like to think our coaching staff played a part in it, but ultimately they’ve made me look good for a really long time.”
Massey inherited a program that had seven seniors, and won its fourth consecutive Eastern Carolina Conference championship. Coming into this season, many around the area were unsure about the Hawks' chances.
“We had a lot of people that just thought we wouldn’t make it this far, and we just had to prove them wrong,” all-area co-Pitcher of the Year Quinton Pittman said.
At the start of the year, it looked that outsiders may be right as the Hawks started out 3-3, including two conference losses. But the Hawks got it together and finished the year 17-4 to finish the year.
“A coach can only do so much, but at some points in the season he did even more,” all-area Player of the Year Colby McLawhorn said. “After every game we loss, he was finding a way to work on the things we did wrong that day. We learned a lot from him, I know I did, and I’ll take it with me forever.”
Massey’s most famous coaching move came in the bottom of the seventh inning in the fourth round of the playoffs against Randleman. WIth the game tied at 0-0, Cameron Butler on third with one out, Aaron Worley up to bat, coach put on the suicide squeeze to walk it off and send his team to the Eastern Regional Final.
“If Aaron Worley hadn’t got that bunt down, that would’ve been a tough one to live with,” Massey said. “That’s just another senior making me look really good. That was my famous one that worked, there’s been a lot of them that didn’t work.”
Massey now faces the challenge of following up a great year, never an easy challenge for anyone, but Massey said he’s not putting any expectations on himself or the players next year.
“It’s a different team next year,” Massey said. “We’ll evaluate what we got, and set our goals in the offseason, but at the same time, we can’t expect, next year’s team to automatically make it to a Regional Final, because it’s different personnel. The team we will have next year will be talented, we’ll have a chance to be really good.”
Kai Jones can be contacted via email @ email@example.com or by calling 252-559-1078. You can follow him on twitter @MMJKaiJones as well. You can also add him on Facebook at Kai Jones.