Three Red Hawks receive All-Region baseball honors

Three Red Hawks receive All-Region baseball honors

HICKORY, N.C. — Three Catawba Valley baseball players have been honored by Region X for their play during the 2018 regular season.

Red Hawks pitcher Julian Smith, third baseman Graham Mitchell and designated hitter Kyran Russ were selected as All-Region X first team performers following Thursday night's coaches meeting in Burlington, N.C.

Smith was also voted the first-ever Region X Pitcher of the Year.

"It's a great feeling," Smith said of his Region honors. "I think this is all just a reflection of the work that many of the guys put in during the fall. I couldn't have done this without the help of my teammates. (CVCC catcher) Brett Macchia behind the plate did a great job all year. With their support and their defensive help behind me, I think they contributed to a big part of me getting both of these acknowledgements."

The 6-foot-4, 192-pound left-handed pitcher from Concord, N.C. rewrote the Catawba Valley baseball pitching records this spring, tallying the most strikeouts in a season (124) and career (175) by any Red Hawk pitcher.

He is currently tied with former Red Hawk pitcher Cole Whitney for the most wins in a single season (8).

Smith led all CVCC pitchers this spring in innings pitched (74.0) and ERA (2.07), and he was named National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 22, 2018.

Catawba Valley head baseball coach Paul Rozzelle called Smith's selection for Region X Pitcher of the Year a "no-brainer."

"He's shattered records left and right," Rozzelle said of Smith. "I know (CVCC pitching) coach (Kris) Harvey is going to be really proud of that Pitcher of the Year honor for Julian. We are very happy and excited for him."

Mitchell, a Greenville, S.C. native, also etched his names into the Catawba Valley record books with a walk-off single on April 18, 2018 — recording his 87th career RBI, which is the most for any Red Hawk baseball player in program history.

Mitchell currently has 95 career RBI, and he currently leads CVCC this season in RBI (61), home runs (11), batting average (.377), runs scored (52) and walks (34).

"Graham Mitchell has had an unbelievable year," Rozzelle said. "With what he's done here through his career and obviously this season, it's well deserved. I'm very proud of his accomplishments and all of the work that he's done."

The honor for Mitchell comes on the same day that he announced his commitment to continue his academic and athletic career at Presbyterian College.

"It's a really cool day, especially to be able to share it with guys that have become like brothers to me over the past two years," Mitchell said. "There are things I won't ever forget. I'm forever thankful for this place, for these guys and for the opportunities I was given here."

A redshirt freshman from Buford, Ga., Russ erupted on to the scene in his first year as a Red Hawk, tying Mitchell for the team lead in home runs (11).

"He came out of nowhere this year," Rozzelle said of Russ. "He did a great job of hitting mistakes. He is solid piece of our line up and order. We are very proud of him. He's worked very hard — both him and Graham — with (CVCC hitting) coach (Colby) Dishmond."

In 38 games at Catawba Valley, Russ has tallied 30 runs, 34 hits, six doubles and 38 RBI. His .754 slugging percentage is the highest of any Red Hawk player, and he also carries a .347 batting average and .467 on-base percentage.

On Feb. 28, 2018, Russ was named the NJCAA's Player of the Week after tallying two home runs, five RBI and 12 total bases in three games against USC Union.

"Honestly, it's a blessing from God up above," Russ said of his Region X honor. "I can't thank Him enough. He's put me through a lot, and it's finally paying off. I want to thank Graham Mitchell, Julian Smith and everybody for helping me. I don't know where I would be without them. Honestly, it's just a true blessing to get this recognition."

All three players will be honored before their first-round Region X/Southeast District tournament game against Brunswick Community College on Friday. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at the Burlington Athletic Stadium in Burlington, N.C.