When Reed Clark was a freshman on the Forsyth Central junior varsity baseball team four years ago, he couldn’t help but get star-struck by then Bulldogs senior catcher Danny Bermudez. Bermudez had the stats and the status and, most enticingly, the college scholarship with Western Carolina in back pocket.
“He was like the big stud,” Clark said. “I always thought it was so cool he was going to play [college baseball].”
Now, Clark might be teammates with Bermudez after the rising senior pitcher verbally committed Wednesday to play for the Catamounts. The left-hander chose Western Carolina over Georgia Highlands, Georgia State and Richmond.
“It feels fantastic,” Clark said about making his decision. “It’s been a big dream of mine since I was a little kid. I couldn’t have done it without my friends, family and coaches.”
Clark is coming off a junior season in which he went 3-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 10 appearances. He had 42 strikeouts in 43 innings with 21 walks and was named to the all-county team.
“When he has all three of his pitches working, he’s tough to beat,” Central coach Kevin McCullom said.
And Clark said Western Carolina was tough to beat, too. He visited campuses both in the suburbs (Richmond) and city (Georgia State), but Western Carolina’s campus, in Cullowhee, North Carolina, felt the most like home.
“I had a good feel about it,” Clark said. “I just felt like I really fit in with the people. It kind of reminded me of a Georgia feel.”
Richmond was the first to offer Clark, but Western Carolina was the first to contact him on July 1, the day college coaches are allowed to resume calling prospects in the Class of 2015. Clark said he first visited with Catamounts assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Alan Beck. Head coach Bobby Moranda followed with a visit soon after. When they learned Clark was travelling to visit Richmond a week ago, they convinced him to stop by Western Carolina and made an official offer.
All along, Clark wondered about the help he might be getting from Bermudez. The rising junior catcher who helped lead Central to the Elite 8 in 2012 hit .305 and started 24 of 43 games he played this past season for Western Carolina, becoming an increasingly significant contributor for the Catamounts as they went 37-18 and won a second straight Southern Conference regular season title. Clark never spoke with Bermudez, but coaches intimated to him that the fellow Bulldog was putting in a good word.
“I’m sure it had a little bit of an impact,” Clark said. “They didn’t say how much, but I think it helped a little.”
Clark would be the second straight Forsyth County pitcher to sign with Western Carolina if he sticks with his non-binding verbal commitment, joining Lambert’s Dylan Biumi.
Until then, Clark said he’s laser-focused on his upcoming senior season. He’s trying to get stronger to augment the velocity of his 89-mile-per-hour fastball and be more prepared for the longer college baseball season, so Clark has been throwing and working out this summer with fellow Central rising senior pitcher Logan Howard.
“We’re going to be the two big pitchers on the team with varsity innings,” Clark said. “We just got to be leaders on the field. That’s what’s going to take us to the next level.”