It might not have been the route the friends and former Tampa-area prep baseball standouts had planned for their collegiate careers, but the outcome — a World Series title — was made even better by the chance to do it together.
King High graduate Josciel Veras and Gaither’s Brady North helped Cumberland University defeat host Lewis-Clark State College 3-0 on Friday to win the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
North’s journey to Cumberland — located in Lebanon, Tenn. — for his senior season was circuitous. After two years at Hillsborough County Community College, North played his junior season at Jacksonville University.
North said his time at Jacksonville wasn’t what he expected. He suffered a hamstring injury, and after some changes to the coaching staff, the program was no longer a good fit.
He said he remembered that at his sophomore showcase while attending HCC, Cumberland coach Woody Hunt had told North that the school would always have a place for him.
North’s father, newly named Gaither baseball coach Nelson North, coached at Cumberland in 1995 for Hunt, and the younger North said he really appreciated the coach’s offer at the time.
“After my junior season, I talked with my dad and we decided to call coach Hunt and see if his offer was still good,’’ North said. “He always kept every promise he ever made, and I really appreciate him.”
Hunt, a member of the Tennessee Sports and American Baseball Coaches Association halls of fame, didn’t leave HCC’s showcase empty handed, as one of North’s HCC teammates, Veras, accepted an offer to head to Cumberland.
After his junior season at Jacksonville, North called Veras and Veras’ message was simple: “Come here, it will be the best decision of your life.”
“Honestly, I was trying to bring him with me our junior year,” Veras said. “He had the chance to go D-I, and I guess it didn’t work out, so I told him to come to Cumberland.”
North hit .283 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs, while Veras hit .299.
“After we won the regional, it really sunk in that God had something great planned for us from the beginning,” North said. “I couldn’t have written this any better.”
Nine local players earn academic honors
Nine area high school baseball players were named to the All-Academic state baseball team, announced by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association.
Weley Chapel’s Corey Mumaw was the lone Pasco County representative. Tampa Prep had four players selected: Nick DeTringo, Matt Fulton, Matt Hodges and Sam Martin.
Also selected to the team from Hillsborough County were T.J. Cole (Robinson), Cole Gordon (Steinbrenner), Alex Faedo (Alonso), Jake Woodford (Plant).