PEMBROKE — A college pitcher with local ties has signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Southpaw Wes Helsabeck, who pitched two years at Surry Community College, wasn’t drafted, but the Dodgers reached out with a free-agent deal.
Helsabeck, a Rural Hall native, attended North Forysth, the same school where SCC coach Jamie Lowe once won five straight conference coach of the year awards (2002-06).
That local tie helped Lowe pull the lefty up to Dobson after a senior year where he earned an all-conference honor for both his pitching and his batting (.341 batting average).
As a freshman, Helsabeck made some spot appearances in 21 games. He finished the season with a 2-0 record and a sterling 2.08 ERA over 13 innings pitched.
As a sophomore in 2013, the pitcher had longer outings, pitching 75.2 innings over 17 appearances, including a couple of starts. He went 4-2 with an ERA of 2.74.
Helsabeck earned Region X all-region honors and was named SCC’s pitcher of the year.
He then matriculated to Winston-Salem State, just two recent Knights are doing this fall in Jamison Nagle and Corbin Easter.
At WSSU, Helsabeck went 6-1 with a 3.02 ERA while helping the Rams to an NCAA Tournament appearance. He struck out 61 batters in 59.2 innings. Opponents batted just .230 against him.
Rather than stay at WSSU, Helsabeck chose to join UNC Pembroke, which finished this season as the #12 ranked Division II team in the nation by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association.
A key member of the pitching rotation in 2015, Helsabeck made 16 appearances (six starts) for the Braves in 2015 and registered a 5-1 record, a 4.82 ERA and one save in 46-2/3 innings of work, while also striking out 62 batters and walking 16.
At the start of the season, Helsabeck was on fire, going 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA up through March 28. Then in his next outing, USC Aiken went off for 24 runs, with the starter giving up 10 of those.
With the signing, Helsabeck becomes the 21st player in the history of UNCP baseball to draw attention from professional scouts.
Jordan Edgerton was drafted in the ninth round by the Atlanta Braves of last year’s MLB Draft and is currently playing in Atlanta’s farm system for the Rome (Ga.) Braves.
Helsabeck will begin his climb in the professional ranks with the Ogden Raptors, an advanced rookie affiliate of the Dodgers. The Raptors play their home games at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah.
He isn’t Lowe’s first former player to reach the minors. While at North Forsyth, Lowe coached Dustin Ackley, who now plays for the Seattle Mariners.
Speaking of his former player, Lowe said, “He’s a hard-working and very deserving young man. He threw a combined no-hitter while at Surry in 2013 and was one of the Region X’s best pitchers. It’s great to see that the scouts recognized his talent and gave him a chance to play.”