MARION – McDowell rising senior Zach Franklin weighed all his options.
The Mountain Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year shook the rest off to play college baseball for Western Carolina University.
Franklin said Friday that he committed to the Catamounts after also giving a good, hard look to Charlotte, College of Charleston and North Carolina.
“(WCU) felt like a community. It felt like home,” Franklin said.
“It’s in the mountains and I just had a good feeling. I felt right about it and felt it was a good fit for me.”
The Catamounts are coming off their first Southern Conference tournament championship in 13 years. Subsequently, they got some big exposure with a NCAA Regional appearance at Clemson.
“That didn’t hurt,” Franklin said.
“But it wasn’t the main or deciding factor when I committed. It’s great to have this decision out of the way. Now I can just focus on trying to get better.”
Franklin is a right-hander whose fastball has touched 90 mph this summer. He also throws a curveball and changeup.
How good is his stuff?
Opponents were only able to bat 1.70 off of Franklin last spring. He was 4-4 with two saves for the Titans (15-12), which won over MAC coaches when it came time to vote for the league’s preeminent pitcher. Franklin kept up a 1.53 earned-run average with 93 strikeouts in 59.1 innings pitched.
He represented McDowell in last month’s State Games tournament and plays showcase ball for the Impact Baseball Dirtbags organization.
When Franklin is not on the mound, he has played second and third base.
“Western Carolina has always had such a great baseball tradition,” Titans coach Alex Smith said.
“It’s nice to see them back on the right track and recruiting a kid like Zach. Everyone is excited about this because we know they just picked up a kid who can contribute.”