Kendal Tucker’s first season of college baseball didn’t go the way he had hoped. But the former North Surry two-time All-State player didn’t get as far as he had for nothing.
After not playing competitive baseball in more than a calendar year, Tucker got back on the field this summer for the Kernersville Bulldogs of the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League, a summer league for college baseball players from this part of the country. In what was his first action above the high school level, Tucker showed what he had what it took.
“This summer, I actually got to play,” said Tucker, who was compelled to take a redshirt season as a freshman at Winthrop University this spring. “We had a ton of intrasquad games (at Winthrop) last fall, but it was the first time in 12 or 13 months that I’d played in a real game.
“Things didn’t go my way in the last year, but this summer reassured me that I have the ability to play at the college level.”
Did it ever.
Playing in a league made up of other college players, Tucker played all over the field and hit a whopping .349 (38-for-109), with 11 extra-base hits, an on-base percentage of .426, and 22 runs scored and RBI apiece. Tucker ranked second on the Bulldogs in both hits and batting average as the team racked up a 40-13 record and reached the semifinals of the CVCL playoffs, where they lost 5-4 to the eventual league champion North Wake Fungo.
“Pretty much every college baseball player plays during the summer,” said Tucker. “There are a bunch of different leagues around the country. We played pretty much every day, and every team we played had Division I, II and III players, and even some JUCO guys. The average pitcher throws about 84-85, and the hardest I faced was about 93-94. It’s very competitive.”
Few who ever saw the 5’10” infielder play for the Greyhounds would be surprised that Tucker is a handful for college pitchers. As a senior at North Surry, Tucker hit .600 with nine doubles, three triples and four home runs, and drove in 26 runs in just 19 games. He was chosen to the All-State team in both his junior and senior seasons, and signed with Winthrop University during his final year with the Hounds.
Things didn’t go as he’d expected as a college freshman, though.
“We had a lot of talent returning. They had won the Big South regular-season championship the year before I got there,” said Tucker. “They had a lot of people back, guys who had been in the program three or four years playing ahead of me. The guy in front of me was 22 years old.”
Tucker felt like he had held his own in fighting for playing time, but the coaching staff had more confidence in the veteran players.
The Eagles ended up having a disappointing season, finishing just 25-31 and getting punted out of the Big South Tournament after just three games, but Tucker eventually chose to take a redshirt year and not waste a year of eligibility. Following the season, he decided to transfer to Winston-Salem State, where he will have all four years of college eligibility remaining.
The summer performance is likely to get the attention of the Rams, if they weren’t already looking forward to Tucker joining the team.
“I hadn’t played in so long, and I really wasn’t expecting to hit and play as well as I did,” he said.
Tucker, who played third base and shortstop for North Surry, also put in a lot of work in the outfield during the CVCL season, and says he will play anywhere on the field, so long as he gets to play.
“I’ll play anywhere in the infield, and I also played a decent amount in the outfield this summer,” he said. “In college, it’s pretty much whoever is hitting the best who plays. So I’ll just hope my bat will carry me.”
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.