• 77°

Taking the next step

Everyone dreams of doing what they love.

Pike Liberal Arts senior Will Starling will continue to do what he loves at the next level this upcoming fall.

The current Patriot baseball player signed on the dotted line Monday morning, making him a future Southern Union Bison baseball player.

Starling received a baseball scholarship from the community college earlier this year and made it official on his signing day.

“It feels good,” Starling said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

“It’s the next level. I will be going up against better players and coaches, better competition – better everything.”

At Southern Union, Starling will be doing the same things has he done for the past couple of seasons with the Patriots, pitching, fielding and batting.

It has been his time with PLAS that Starling said he believes helped him make the next step in his baseball career.

“I have learned a lot (playing at PLAS),” he said. “And I have gotten better along the way.”

“I have learned a lot of leadership skills and how to play baseball the right way, with class.”

As for his current team, Starling and the rest of the Patriots are focused on winning the AISA state championship.

The team that will meet them in the upcoming semi-finals, Macon-East, is also the last team to hand PLAS a loss and that is something neither Starling nor his teammates have forgotten about.

“Of course it is something we all think about,” the senior said.

“We want to pay them back for earlier this season. We know it’s going to be a dog fight when they get here.”

Starling finished his final regular season as a Patriot with respectable numbers at the plate.

The senior hit seven home runs, drove in 54 runs to go along with an on base percentage of .608 and a batting average of .473, but there is still one thing that he wants to accomplish – winning a baseball state title.

“It’s been a fun year,” he said.

“I have tried to play every game like it’s my last. But I have had a lot of fun playing on this team with all these guys.

“We all feel like we have something to prove –we want to be the first team to win the (baseball) championship at Pike,” he added.

One of Starling’s teammates may know him better than the rest.

Starling’s younger bother, Josh, has been on the varsity squad the entire season and like his older brother a pitcher.

“We have talked about pitching a lot this season,” Josh said.

“He has given me a lot of good tips – It has been really helpful.

“It’s going to be weird not playing next season,” the sophomore laughed.

Starling’s head coach Butch Austin said he was proud of what Will has been able to accomplish at PLAS, both on and off the field.

“I’m proud for Will and his family,” Austin said.

“I know Will is going to do well anywhere he goes. He is a good ball player now, and he is going to get better.”

Austin said he calls Starling his “Stopper,” whenever he takes the mound.

“You can put him in, and you can expect a win whenever he is a pitching.

“He has had a really good couple of seasons for us,” the coach said.

Winning is all Starling has done on the mound this season for the Patriots.

The senior leads the team in three different categories, wins, strikeouts and innings pitched.

Starling finished his final regular season with a perfect 7-0 record while recording 56 strikeouts and a 3.90 ERA in 37 innings pitched.

And he will look to continue those winning ways when he takes the mound in game one against Macon-East on Wednesday.