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Former Hilltopper Craig enjoys breakout season, named ACC player of year

Dave Ongie, Press Staff Writer • May 28, 2015 at 1:00 AM

Will Craig’s dream of one day playing major league baseball received a giant boost this spring when Craig laid waste to Atlantic Coast Conference pitching.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore batted .382 with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and 58 RBIs for Wake Forest, an effort that earned him the title of ACC player of the year. While the accolade was appreciated, Craig, a former standout at Science Hill, was more concerned with the fact that his team wasn’t able to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a real honor to win the award, but our team didn’t go as far as we hoped,” Craig said. “The personal award is great, but I’d rather for our team to get a little farther than we went.”

Indeed, Wake Forest fell short of making the conference tournament after going 12-18 in league play. But that doesn’t change the fact that Craig enjoyed a breakout season.

Craig’s freshman campaign was nothing to sneeze at. He batted .280, hit eight homers and drove in 36 runs, good enough to earn himself a spot on the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team.

This season, however, Craig was able to adjust to the speed of the college game, and his production went through the roof. Now he’s a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is given to the national player of the year.

“Coming out of high school, it’s a lot different game,” Craig said. “I never realized it watching it, but once you start playing it, you realize how much faster the game is at the college level.

“This year, I really took my experience and used it to slow down the game, play the game at my own speed. That kind of worked out for me.”

Craig’s evolution is the continuation of a journey that started in Johnson City, where he developed into a Division I prospect while playing for coach Ryan Edwards at Science Hill.

“Being at Science Hill was the first stepping stone in my pursuit of playing major league baseball,” said Craig, who was actually drafted out of high school by the Kansas City Royals in the 37th round of the 2013 draft before deciding to play at Wake Forest.

To this day, Craig takes pride in being part of the rich baseball tradition that has taken root at Science Hill, handed down from one senior class to the next.

“Being able to play behind Daniel Norris and Will Carter and people like that really prepared me for my senior year, and my goal was to prepare the sophomores and juniors for their senior years,” Craig said.

With a crucial year ahead of him, Craig is preparing to play in the Cape Cod League in Massachusetts this summer to continue his development. The goal is crystal clear: he wants to keep getting better in hopes of leading Wake Forest to the NCAA tournament and raise his stock in the eyes of professional scouts.

Following his junior year, Craig will be eligible for the major league draft once again, and another great season could mean a big contract and a shot at making the big leagues. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but Craig said he won’t let the pressure rob him of the enjoyment he gets out of the game.

“The main thing is having fun and not stressing out over everything,” he said. “If it’s not fun playing baseball, you’re probably doing it the wrong way. It’s a kids game.”

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