Asheboro ZooKeepers crank up with busy baseball slate

James Hankerson Jr. has been active early in the season for the Asheboro ZooKeepers. (Courtesy photo)

College summer team looks for right blend

ASHEBORO – More winning is one of the objectives for the Asheboro ZooKeepers this year.

There have been a few seasons of occupying low spots in the Coastal Plain League standings, but second-year head coach Korey Dunbar said there has been a good tone for the first week of the season.

“We definitely want to win,” said shortstop Zach Evans, a rising senior at Lenoir-Rhyne. “There are a lot of people counting on us to win.”

Dunbar said that the team is “starting off hot” in terms of a busy schedule. The ZooKeepers began the season with games scheduled on six consecutive nights.

That’s a good way for the players and coaches to become familiar with each other.

“We all come from different areas,” said third baseman Hunter Atkins, who was a Randleman standout in high school and last summer a key contributor for Randolph County Post 45. “But we meet up for practice and it’s like we’ve known each other for years.”

And the roster figures to be growing for the summer collegiate league team as players arrive after their college seasons.

“Mainly it’s going to be arms that are coming,” Dunbar said of additional pitchers. “We’ve got guys trickling in.”

One of the players with a strong start for the ZooKeepers has been James Hankerson Jr., a first baseman from Florida State not on the Seminoles’ postseason roster.

The talent comes in various forms. Outfielder RJ Jimerson was a Missouri sophomore this year after a solid freshman season for Memphis.

The ZooKeepers began the CPL season last week by defeating the High Point Thomasville HiToms 8-4 at McCrary Park before losing the next night by 7-2 to the visiting Boone Bigfoots.

Atkins, who was redshirted this year at UNC Greensboro, said it has been good to be back in a game environment. He went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs in the opener.

“I haven’t played an organized game of baseball since the (2023) Legion season,” he said.

Just an exhibition

The ZooKeepers won 12-0 against Randolph County 45’s American Legion team in a seven-inning exhibition game Monday night between McCrary Park’s two main tenants.

In the game, former Randleman teammates and 2024 UNC Greensboro mates faced off in the first inning. Austin Lemons, pitching for Post 45, hit Atkins with a pitch in the back on the first delivery of the at-bat.

It was a fastball that was supposed to be inside, but not quite that much.

“I’m not going to miss over the plate because he can hit it,” Lemons said.

By Bob Sutton