DUDLEY — A surreal, mind-blowing tale of how a deadly virus halted their baseball careers will make a good story for Southern Wayne teammates Luke Davis and Matt Kornegay to tell their children one day.
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) struck barely 10 days into the season. School officials expected a momentary stoppage of play due to the respiratory disease, but the season was canceled instead.
Davis, a sweet-swinging run producer, had emerged as a key factor in the Saints’ solid start.
“You dream about your senior year since you’re a freshmen, dream about senior night and it gets taken away from you just like that,” he said.
Kornegay missed the first three games due to a dislocated shoulder, and ended up a home run short of the cycle in his final outing against Spring Creek.
“Being able to come back from all of these injuries and hardships and to play only one game, it hit me really hard,” Kornegay said.
Though they’re not hitting dingers or flashing the leather on the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex diamond, they’re each headed to the next level.
Davis signed a national letter-of-intent with JUCO power Southeastern Community College in Whiteville. He plans to move on to a four-year school, continue to play baseball and earn a degree in physical education.
Kornegay inked an NLI with perennial D2 powerhouse University of Mount Olive. An outspoken and confident infielder, he seeks a business degree and to help lead the Trojans to another national title.
The duo undoubtedly possesses the tools to succeed.
“Both of them are going to have the opportunity to earn their keep,” SW head coach Trae McKee said. “Moving on and playing college baseball is a little different animal. Each one of them having that opportunity is very deserving. They both have worked very hard at what they have done.
“They’re both going to have to continue to work hard.”
A natural competitor, Davis excels in the outfield and concedes that he needs to improve his speed. He’s a solid teammate on and off the field and has used this down time to improve his skills.
Davis concluded his high school career with a .368 batting average, 32 hits, 16 RBI, .925 fielding percentage and .485 on-base percentage in 28 varsity contests.
Kornegay played 44 varsity games. His career worksheet includes a .316 batting average, 36 hits, 10 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 93 putouts and 25 assists defensively, and a .448 OBP.
While the coronavirus prevented the Saints from benefiting from good bounces, McKee says it’s provided a new appreciation not only for his senior class, but the returning players, too.
“It’s been tough on everybody,” McKee said. “I think there’s a different level of appreciation for the oppowwrtunity to do that and when we get back onto the field how much it should mean to the young men that are now participating in this game or any game for that matter.
“That definitely changes how we can look at the blessings that we have in our lives. It’s a blessing to play this game. It’s not a rite of passage. You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to earn it.
Davis and Kornegay are perfect examples.