New Eastern Randolph baseball coach Nate Cockman talks with his Chatham-Randolph Pony League All-Star team earlier this month. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
RAMSEUR – Nate Cockman’s rise to a head coaching position in high school baseball happened faster than he envisioned. He’s grateful for that.
He’s the new coach at Eastern Randolph.
“It all happened pretty quick,” Cockman said. “The doors opened at once. I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.”
The 2017 graduate takes over at his alma mater because Brent Haynes left after one season. Haynes took the coaching job at Burlington Williams.
Cockman had been coaching at Southeastern Randolph Middle School, which is a feeder school to Eastern Randolph.
“I knew eventually I wanted to get back to Eastern,” he said.
Cockman was a pitcher and infielder for the Wildcats. He also played football and basketball.
Haynes said the chance to take a coaching position in Alamance County was enticing because of the location. He’s a Southern Alamance graduate who lives in Graham.
Eastern Randolph posted an 8-19 record under Haynes. The Wildcats excelled in the Class 1-A state playoffs, reaching the West Region finals.
“It was great being at Eastern Randolph. I enjoyed the one year there,” Haynes said. “Once we got to the 1-A competition, it kind of evened out the playing field.”
Haynes, who also was on Eastern Randolph’s football staff as a receivers coach, said he appreciated the good relationships he developed with team members.
Four players from the 2023 Wildcats team are set to play baseball in college. They are Stratton Barwick and Kahlin Graham heading to Guilford College and Pierce Leonard and Ethan Frye going to Guilford Tech.
Cockman coached Southeastern Randolph Middle School’s team for one season. It began with an 0-3 record before a 13-game winning streak to end the season.
“Just trying to get kids to change and adapt to a different culture,” he said.
Cockman said he was fortunate to see Eastern Randolph’s team several times during the 2023 season. He also had been the manager for Post 81’s American Legion team, but that club didn’t field a team this year because of low player interest.
The plan has been to get Post 81 back in action and Cockman’s new role might aid that.
“Hopefully, now we can push to get that,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be a win-win situation.”
Because of the late-summer timing, Cockman will remain on the football coaching staff at Southeastern Randolph Middle School. He’ll take Haynes’ previous position as a physical education teacher at Eastern Randolph, a similar role he held at Southeastern Randolph Middle School.