CHARLESTON — Charleston's Wes Harrell's hope was to find a place to pitch in college, which would also help pay for his college education. Harrell's path to end up as a college pitcher got off to a good start when he cracked Charleston's starting rotation as a sophomore. Then he made progress as a junior.
Harrell went to a showcase at Lake Land and caught the eye of head coach Bill Jackson, who took Harrell aside and showed him around campus. Then Jackson told Harrell he would like to have him at Lake Land next year.
Harrell talked to a couple of former Charleston players who are on Lake Land's current roster, first baseman Sam Gubbins and pitcher Ben Sweeney, and he said both of them have enjoyed their experience at Lake Land.
So Harrell made it official on Thursday and signed to pitch for Lake Land next year.
"I am thrilled. I am ready to grow as a player, and I feel I can do that at Lake Land," Harrell said. "It is close to home and everything like that. It's just the atmosphere I want to be around. I am ready to play and ready to get in games and to make my name known."
Charleston coach Derrick Landrus said Harrell will thrive at Lake Land.
"It's always nice to have them be around and stay close. It will be a perfect fit for him," Landrus said. "Junior college is a great route to go and I see a lot of upside for Wes. He's young for his age, has the build and the potential to be pretty good. We've had several guys go to college and play, and he has as much upside as anyone."
Harrell went 5-1 as a pitcher last season with Charleston High School and was one of the main pitchers for the Charleston Post 93 team. Post 93 coach Jim Miller kept telling Jackson he needed to take a look at Harrell – and when Jackson did, he liked what he saw.
Jackson thinks he's getting one of the best pitchers in the area.
"We are truly excited to have Wes for next year. I think he's one of the top-end arms within our district, and any time we can get a top-end arm from the district, it's a great thing," Jackson said. "We saw him last year, a couple of times at a Legion tournament and he threw for us at the showcase."
Harrell started for Charleston as a sophomore, and he thinks he's developed a good amount since then.
"I was a little surprised when I made the varsity squad as a sophomore," Harrell said. "Back then, I was just a gunslinger: throw as hard as I can and blow it by them. Now I am mixing up speeds and getting batters to miss or hit it where the fielders are more."
Landrus said Harrell still can get better and has made strides every season since he was a freshman.
"He has some good stuff. He throws hard and topped out at 86 as a junior, which is good. He's been able to throw his change-up consistently and has a good curveball," Landrus said. "He gets out of jams, and he struggled with that when he was younger. I think he will make even bigger strides. He's cut his walks down and just has to trust his stuff. I think when he gets a pitching coach full time, when he just has to worry about pitching only and not have to hit, he will become better."
Harrell also plays first base for Charleston and hit two home runs this past season. He will focus on just pitching at Lake Land, and Jackson thinks Harrell has a lot of potential.
"He is a kid that has yet to hit his potential. He's going to learn how to pitch. Right now he's a thrower," Jackson said. "He has some arm strength that will increase as we get him in a weight program. Once he works with his secondary pitches and how to move and spin it, he has a ton of upside. That was the one thing we looked at. He's barely scratched the surface of him being a pitcher."