WINTERVILLE — Since he began playing baseball at age 10, Reese Farmer has dreamed of playing for a four-year school. He will get that chance at East Tennessee State.
The former South Central High School standout became the third returning Pitt Community College player from head coach Tommy Eason’s World Series qualifier to accept an offer from a Division I program. Leadoff hitter Patrick Wheeler from Holly Springs is headed to UNC Charlotte, and pitcher Andrew Blake from Lewisville will play for NC State.
Farmer, who signed his letter of intent on Wednesday, visited Presbyterian and N.C. Central before getting a call from ETSU, located in Johnson City in the mountains of eastern Tennessee.
“I went on a visit there and fell in love with the place,” Farmer said in an interview at the Minges-Overton Complex at PCC. “It was very different. It’s a nice place. I liked it a lot.
“All through high school I’ve been trying to play D-1 baseball. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it to in high school, so I came to Pitt and it’s been the best two years of my life. Now I’m going to go up to another level and hopefully go to another level after that.”
Farmer said “outstanding facilities and the fan base” helped sway his decision to play for the Bucs.
“The day I showed up they had a football game,” he said. “It was kind of cool to see people tailgating at this somewhat smaller school compared to like ECU.”
Farmer comes into a program that finished 30-29 last year to end a string of three consecutive losing seasons and has an entirely new coaching staff. Joe Pennucci was introduced in July as the successor to longtime ETSU head coach Tony Skole after serving as recruiting coordinator at Stony Brook, which advanced to the College World Series in 2012. He is assisted by Ross Oeder, a former Penn State assistant, and Micah Posey, who spent the last four years at Elon.
“They’re all new coaches, but they seem to know what they’re talking about,” Farmer said. “They really cared about me and my family when we showed up there. That kind of put me head over heels for them.”
Baseball did that for Farmer from the time he started in Winterville playing for coach Larry Rocco. He played basketball and ran cross country during two of his years at South Central, but baseball always stayed in the forefront.
“I loved basketball when I was little, then I started playing baseball and that kind of got in the way of everything,” he said. “Baseball is pretty much my No. 1 thing to do. Baseball is a sport where there’s really no offseason. You can’t really play another sport if you’re going to be serious about baseball.”
Farmer credits Rocco, former South Central coach Robert “Peanut” Langston and American Legion coaches Ryan Meadows and Corey Skinner for helping him develop the skills to get to PCC. Eason and assistants Jason Wood and former assistant Joe Caracci have helped him build on those and earn the chance at ETSU.
“They really keyed in on my skills and told me what I need to be to get to the next level,” he said. “I have so much praise for all three of them.”
Farmer saw only spot duty as a freshman on an experienced team last year but batted .338 (24 for 71) in 29 games with one double, three homers and 13 RBI. He got off to a torrid start with Post 39 last summer with 10 hits in his first 15 at-bats and had a stretch of reaching base in eight consecutive trips.
His bat, speed and defense played big factor in Pitt County’s 27-6 record and run to the Area One East and Area One titles.
“The year before I had a good summer, and then I knew what to expect from the team,” he said. “This summer it just helped me play real easily and try to be one of the leaders out there and try to get us a state championship. It didn’t happen, but I definitely think having the confidence I had helped other people.”
Attention from four-year programs didn’t heat until a solid performance during the fall scrimmage schedule. He’s glad he has settled on his future before the season starts.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders being able to come into the spring knowing that I will playing at another level next year and not have to worry about trying to find a school so fast and trying to outdo myself or outdo my talents,” he said. “I can just let myself play and be calm and help my team win a championship and go back to Enid, Oklahoma (for the World Series). That’s my main goal now.”
Wheeler and Blake will play major roles in that goal.
Wheeler hit .348 in the leadoff spot last year with 13 doubles, four homers and 30 RBIs. He also dr 28 walks, stole 11 bases and anchored the Bulldogs’ outfield in center.
“I am extremely excited to commit to such a great school and program in UNC Charlotte,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a new season at Pitt to build off of the success of last year and hopefully get back to NJCAA World Series.”
Blake was a weekend starter, posting a 7-1 record while recording 67 strikeouts in 53 innings. He allowed 69 hits, including 10 home runs, walked 23 and had a 7.30 ERA.
“To be able to commit to NC State is humbling, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the coaches and teammates here at Pitt who have pushed and supported me along the way,” he said. “I think we can have another season like last year if we continue to work hard and stay focused on our goal of winning a national championship.”