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Bertie duo commits

WINDSOR – They’ve spent four years on the same prep baseball club.

Aaron Hoggard and Brent Bowen will continue to play together next season when both play at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount.

Thursday afternoon Bertie High School Head Baseball Coach Randy Whitaker and the two young men announced their intentions to play for the Bishops during the 2008-2009 season.

Both men, graduates of Bertie High School earlier this year, said they liked the close proximity to their home (the campus is in Rocky Mount) and the fact the school was small.

“I was first attracted to Wesleyan because of the college,” Bowen said. “I liked the baseball part, but it was the college that got my attention.”

Hoggard said he was first drawn to the Bishops baseball program, but it didn’t take long for his interest in the school to develop.

“Baseball is the reason I was first interested in N.C. Wesleyan, but once I got to see the college campus, I became more interested in the school aspect,” he said. “I’m now excited about going back to school whereas before I just wanted to play ball.”

Both young men said they felt they had learned things at Bertie High School that would help them as they went to college.

“We had a good disciplinary coach,” Bowen said. “The conditioning that we’ve always done will help in the transition to college.”

Hoggard said he felt learning the lesson of the importance of teamwork would be the most beneficial.

“We learned this year that we have to play as a team,” he said. “In the middle of the season when we were slumping, we learned that we couldn’t fix it as individuals.

“Once we learned to get it together as a team, we were able to rally back, win some games and make the playoffs,” he added.

Hoggard and Bowen each said they believed playing for Whitaker was beneficial for them as baseball players and people.

“It was hard at first because I had never played with a coach as strict as Coach Whitaker,” Hoggard said. “It took a while to get used to, but we learned to stay out of trouble.”

Hoggard said he also felt Whitaker’s knowledge of the game, which he had shared with them, was essential in building his baseball IQ.

“He knows the game and he helped me improve in every area,” he said.

Bowen said that Whitaker’s concern for his players was important.

“He cares about his players more than just on the field,” Bowen said. “He checked our grades and he cares about what you’re doing in the classroom.”

Then, laughing, he added, “He sometimes even cares what you’re doing away from school. We learned that he knows what we’re doing all the time.”

Both young men also said they had learned a lot from Bertie High School and would take that knowledge with them.

Hoggard credited incoming BHS Principal Calvin Moore and softball coach Jackie Copeland with being important to him over the years.

“Coach Moore had a tremendous impact on me,” he said. “He was a mentor and helped me a lot. Coach Copeland was someone you could go to and talk to when you had problems.”

The two said they had enjoyed their years at Bertie and the people at the school.

“It’s not a big school and after a short time, you know everybody,” Bowen said.

Hoggard added, “People here are easy to get along with. Most of the kids are interested in sports and that makes it good.”

On the playing field, Whitaker was able to utilize their talents extensively. Bowen played all nine positions during his high school career while Hoggard saw time everywhere but center field, second base and shortstop.

Both said they appreciated being able to play multiple positions.

“I think you learn where you should be if you’re playing at different positions,” Bowen said. “It helps you when you move somewhere else because you know where you need to be based on having played elsewhere.”

Hoggard said it helped him know where he should be.

“You know just about everything that’s going to happen,” he said.

Whitaker said their ability to move around was just one of the good points of having the two men play for him.

“They are both versatile baseball players,” Whitaker said. “When I needed one of them to move around I could count on them giving me their best effort where I put them.”

He also said he was proud of their success.

“Aaron and Brent are good young men and I have enjoyed coaching them over the past four years,” he said. “I appreciate everything they gave to the Bertie High School baseball program and I know I can count on them to represent us well when they go to Wesleyan.

“Both of them have worked hard to earn a chance to play at the next level and I believe they will be successful,” he added. “They both have a bright future.”

Bowen is the son of Raleigh and Renee Bowen and Hoggard is the son of Stacy and Bonnie Hoggard. Both reside in Askewville.