Uwharrie Wampus Cats wrap up season, look forward

Sightings of the elusive Wampus Cat became regular this summer as Catty Wampus and the Uwharrie Wampus Cats baseball team wrapped up their inaugural season.

Uwharrie ended the season with an 18-17 record and reported home attendance of a little more than 6,000, averaging approximately 250 fans for each of the 24 home games.

The Cats took on team owner Greg Sullivan’s other team, the Carolina Disco Turkeys, in the Hwy. 52 cup. Entering last Sunday’s final game of the season, the two teams were tied with five wins against each other.

Uwharrie rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the top of the third inning with three runs and added two more in the sixth to take the Cup with a 5-2 victory.

B.J. Williams was the leading hitter for the Wampus Cats this season, finishing with a .347 batting average and a .533 slugging percentage. The USC Sumter slugger also had a team-high four home runs, with 26 overall hits driving in 13 runs in 75 at-bats.

Bryson Bebber and Trey Larkin finished with 15 RBI each to lead the Wampus Cats. Bebber hit .274 and played in 27 of the team’s 35 games while Larkin was one of the team’s five players who hit .300 or better (.323).

Three other batters were over the .300 mark for the season for Uwharrie: Eli Harpalini (.318), Ick Chirino (.307) and Adam Wilkerson (.304).

As a team this season, Uwharrie scored 207 runs but gave up 217 runs.

Three former Stanly high school standouts threw the most innings on the mound. Former South Stanly standout Sawyer Smith was 3-0 on the season, throwing 30.2 innings. He finished with a 3.23 earned-run average. He also led the Cats with 39 strikeouts.

Former West Stanly standout Charlie Carpenter, playing his college ball at Wingate, was 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA. He struck out 38 batters and issued 17 walks.

Garrett Swink, another South product who currently plays for Surry Community College, was 3-1 in 10 starts with Uwharrie.

The lowest ERA for anyone on the Uwharrie staff was Hillsborough Community College’s Ethan Young, who in 22.1 innings posted a 1.61 earned-run average with 21 strikeouts to seven walks.

As a pitching staff, the Cats struck out 328 batters in 273 innings pitched for a 5.34 ERA.

“The Wampus Cats had a nice first year on and off the field. And we’re excited to get to work on areas where we can make things even better for 2024,” Sullivan said. “I’m excited about opportunities to grow our fan base outside of Stanly County and bring weekend and day-trip tourism to Albemarle.”

Looking towards next season, Sullivan said the team is going to “make sure Montgomery County and some other nearby communities see that we’re also the closest ball team to them. We’re building something cool that more and more people will start to notice.

“In terms of the quality of baseball, I thought it was a very positive sign to finish above .500 in the first year. Some wins were against teams that didn’t surprise me, but beating the Disco Turkeys six times out of their match-ups and winning at the Boone Bigfoots late in the season showed the team could already hold its own against good teams,” Sullivan said. “The team had good pitching, which gave us a shot to win most nights. The offense had five everyday players who hit over .300, but the run production was sometimes streaky. I’d like to add a couple more big bats next summer to make the lineup more dangerous.”

Uwharrie’s owner said he was “excited about recruiting this offseason and it should help that potential players and their college coaches will now have a track record of our team to look at. We are also looking forward to bringing in some new opponents for our fans to watch and to challenge our next group of players even more.”

Sullivan noted the Cats had the second-highest attendance of any summer wood-bat collegiate team in the Charlotte Metro area.

Judson Swink and Harlee Davis dig for fossil at the dinosaur event at the Wampus Cats’ final home game. (Photo by CHARLES CURCIO/staff)

Regarding the reception for the team from Albemarle and Stanly, Sullivan said the team got a “great response from the business community and the general public overall … for a first year team. I think people loved the logos, the uniforms and the idea of having high-level baseball here going into the season. And then I think everyone who came out to the ballpark had a nice time, saw good baseball and liked the environment.

“I think an encouraging thing was that we finished the season strong in attendance with games in our last two weekends being some of our best crowds,” he added. “Having dinosaurs in the ballpark for the last game was awesome. We had a lot of families out at games and a lot of different groups came out and had a nice time. Being able to sell beer and concessions in the new picnic area was a big plus. We think 2024 is going to be incredible based on what we saw and learned from this season.”