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UNC Baseball: Diamond Heels’ Coastal Plain League Recap

The Tar Heels have four players still playing baseball.

NCAA Men's College World Series Championship Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While normal college students are spending their summer vacation out on the beach, traveling, or spending time with their friends, collegiate baseball players are spending their summer how they spend the rest of their year—playing baseball. Collegiate summer leagues across the country are in full swing as many athletes hope to improve for next year’s season, while others look to impress Major League scouts in hope of taking their career to the next level. This summer, the Diamonds Heels are playing their summer ball up and down the east coast. One collegiate league, the Coastal Plain League, is located in the heart of the southeast with ten of the fifteen teams being in North Carolina.

The Coastal Plain League (CPL) was founded in 1997 to bring collegiate summer baseball to the Southeastern United States. The CPL features teams in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. The leagues features a 56-game schedule, playing from mid-May to mid-August, and includes an annual Pro Scout Day, All-Star Game, and the championship playoff system.

Living a mere ten minutes away from a Coastal Plain League team, the Gastonia Grizzlies, each summer I’m able to catch some of the best college baseball players in my own backyard. Various Major Leaguers including Justin Verlander, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Warren, and Brandon Guyer appeared in the Coastal Plain League during their collegiate days. Notable alumni also include Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Wisconsin alumni Russell Wilson. The games provide fans the opportunity to watch a plethora of baseball games, while also giving the players and opportunity to continue playing baseball and make memories during their summer “vacation.”

According to GoHeels.com, four Tar Heels are spending their summer playing in the Coastal Plain League:

  • Ike Freeman - High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms
  • Jake Holtzapple- Wilson Tobs
  • Utah Jones - Savannah Bananas
  • Josh Ladowski- Wilson Tobs

All stats are courteous of the Coastal Plain League and are as of 6/30:

  • Ike Freeman: 8 G, 28 AB, 12 H, 3 RBI, 6 R, 5 BB, 6 K, .429 AVG, .543 OBP
  • Jake Holtzapple: 7 G, 13 AB, 2 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 6 K, .154 AVG, .313 OBP
  • Utah Jones: 17 G, 52 AB, 16 H, 5 2B, 8 RBI, 8 R, 4 BB, 17 K, .308 AVG, .373 OBP
  • Josh Ladowski: 11 G, 32 AB, 9 H, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K, .281 AVG, .324 OBP

Rising sophomore Ike Freeman has by far had the best summer for the Diamond Heels in the CPL. Whether he’s using a wood bat or aluminum bat, he’s raking and putting up big numbers. If this hot start keeps up and translates to his season in Chapel Hill in 2017, he could be a big contributor for the Diamond Heels.

Utah Jones has been a constant in the Bananas’ lineup, having started in 17 of their 26 games. He’s posted an impressive average while being able to hit for extra bases at a constant rate.

One may remember that Jones became a viral sensation overnight in 2016 for the Diamond Heels after he sabotaged Coach Mike Fox’s television interview with crazy antics and the use of a banana in the Tar Heels 15-0 rout of South Carolina. Who would’ve known that Jones would later go on to play for the Savannah Bananas? Coincidence? I think not.

With these four Diamond Heels gaining valuable experience through the summer ball circuit, it will prepare them for their quest for Omaha in the 2018 season. The Coastal Plain League regular season runs through August 7th with the playoffs beginning shortly after.

Check back with the Tar Heel Blog periodically to catch up with the Diamond Heels who are playing summer collegiate ball.