HURRICANE, W.Va.— Five days after Hurricane High School softball players Harlie Vannatter and Lindsey Phares signed to play at the NCAA Division I level (Bowling Green and Wisconsin-Green Bay respectively), four more Redskins inked their names and made their collegiate futures official.
Baseball players Tyler Cox, Austin Dearing and Lenny Washington as well as soccer goalkeeper Nick Eskins all signed official letters of intent in a ceremony held in the school’s auxiliary gym on Monday.
Cox, Dearing and Eskins will continue their athletic careers at Marshall University. Washington, a transfer from Huntington St. Joe, will play at Gardner-Webb.
“We definitely have a great community and we definitely love our sports here,” Dearing said. “I think it’s great we have such a great senior class going D-1 and even D-2 and we’re just well-rounded in sports.”
Each of the four will bring his own set of accolades and impressive statistics in tow to campus next fall.
Dearing hit .427 with three home runs, 33 RBI and didn’t commit an error in 46 opportunities a year ago as the Redskins made it back to the state championship game before falling to St. Albans. He was also a starter on the 2018 state-championship squad, as was Cox, who went 4-2 with a pair of saves with a 3.17 ERA on the hill and also hit .316 with three home runs, 31 RBI and 38 runs.
“It feels amazing just knowing I’m going on to the next level of my life, being able to play at a Division I college,” Cox said. “Marshall was my first opportunity, so I took it. Just knowing I have people from my school going to Marshall too — just makes it feel more like home.”
Washington’s situation was a bit unique in the fact that he has yet to throw a pitch or have an at-bat with the Redskins. The 6-foot, 220-pounder was a standout at St. Joseph a year ago before transferring. He hit .552 with four home runs and 41 RBIs while going 7-3 on the mound with a 2.32 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. Washington was named the captain of the Class A All-State team.
“I’m very blessed,” Washington said. “They’ve welcomed me really well here. They’re nothing but nice, they treat me like family — it feels like home.”
The trio obviously creates a formidable foundation for the Redskins to build upon in their quest to rectify last year’s title lost. Dearing is also a basketball play for coach Lance Sutherland, but each of the three said he was ready to go in terms of getting back on the diamond.
“We’re pumped,” Dearing said. “We’ve been working our tails off. We just can’t wait for that moment at the start of the season. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time. That’s all we can do. We can’t look ahead to the state championship or whatnot, we’ve just got to work every, single game.”
While those three are looking ahead at their season, Eskins just finished his. The Redskins lost just two games in 2019, but one of them came in a sectional opener to eventual-state-runner-up Cabell Midland.
Eskins was a first-team, All-State selection in 2018 and a first-team All-Kanawha Valley member this year. All-State teams for 2019 will be announced later this week.
This year, Eskins finished third in the Kanawha Valley with eight shutouts, but perhaps more telling of his ability on the pitch, he also led the Redskins in assists with 11. His booming goal kicks helped flip the field immediately for Hurricane and his free kicks often set up instant offense as well.
Eskins will join a Marshall program that wrapped up its first Conference USA title on Sunday and is currently No. 13 in the country in the latest United Soccer Coaches rankings.
“I’ve been around the program for a while because of some of the coaches I’ve had, they have contacts with Marshall,” Eskins said. “I’ve been down there for a lot of years now, it just feels right.
“(Signing) is kind of relieving. Going to a successful program like that, it’s very humbling.”