Three Cavs turn work into college opportunities
Southern Lee head baseball coach David Miller has led Cavalier baseball for four years. Miller counts the three seniors - Christian Wenger, Ethan Helsman and Cullen Boyette - who were recognized for their college and collegiate baseball decisions in the school's library Tuesday as having as much or more to do with leading the program as he can claim.
"Their first year in the program was my first year, too, so we grew together and these guys took this program to the next level together," Miller said. "So it's definitely going to be hard to replace them, as far as their play and ability, but also their leadership and what they mean in the locker room."
With summer league ball, Southern Lee's already at work trying to replace Wenger, Helsman and Boyette - who combined for 12 years of varsity experience. Tuesday's chance to share congrats, and shoot lots of photos, with family, friends, coaches and teammates a small way to thank the three for the work they've put in as Cavs.
Wenger, a pitcher/outfielder/first baseman, is going to Lenoir-Rhyne University. Helsman, a four-year starter at catcher, is going to Mercer County Community College in New Jersey. Boyette, a four-year starter at third base, is going to Guilford Technical Community College.
"Any time a young man can reach his goal of playing college baseball, it's special," Miller said. "I can't think of three guys who deserve it more."
Along with the usual signing ceremony photos were pictures of each former Cavalier standout with their family, then the other two families, then more with coaches and teammates with all possible combinations of parents and siblings.
"They are three fantastic young men, who just happen to be good baseball players," Miller said.
The Cavaliers have reached the state playoffs each of this class's four seasons and been conference champs or co-champs twice, going 38-10 in regular-season Cape Fear Valley Conference play in the four years. Southern Lee went 20-9 overall this season and reached the round of 16 in states.
Boyette, in the clean-up spot of the Cavalier order, hit for a .423 average and a .552 on-base percentage with 27 runs, seven doubles and 22 RBI.
Helsman, in the third spot of the order, had 23 runs, five doubles and two triples.
Wenger went 6-3 on the mound with six complete games and a 2.03 ERA. He hit .420 with a team-high 29 runs to go with 12 RBI.
Boyette, Helsman and Wenger, Miller said, went from role players as freshmen to team leaders by the time of their junior seasons, perhaps a year ahead of the norm, but deserved because of the effort they'd already put in by that point.
"They're very dedicated to the program and the sport," he said. "It's very rewarding to see it pay off with the opportunity to play college baseball."