VALE –– The pressure to perform is still there, but the pressure to perform for a spot on a college roster is no more.
West Lincoln baseball standout Chandler Jenkins signed his National Letter of Intent on National Signing Day Wednesday to play for Gardner-Webb University.
Jenkins, a left-hander who holds the school record for saves with 11, committed to the Bulldogs at the end of September and fulfilled a commitment made to the only program that gave him a formal offer.
Playing the game has come natural for Jenkins, who first picked up a bat at age 4 and finished his junior season with team highs in hits (33), doubles (nine), home runs (two), RBIs (33), total bases (48) and batting average (.370), and is a career .330 hitter.
He feels most comfortable in the batter’s box, especially the one at Gardner-Webb.
“When I step in the box there it’s just comfortable,” he said. “When you’re there you know you’re in a good spot.”
Even after as big a year as Jenkins had for the Rebels last year, helping them to the fourth round of the state playoffs and tying a school record for single-season wins at 24, the colleges weren’t coming around.
It wasn’t until the summer that Jenkins was noticed.
He said a single hit during the Charlotte-based Powerade State Games of N.C. –– an inside pitch hit deep into the gap –– got the attention of Bulldogs scouts, and from then on they were after him.
They saw him again during a tournament in Georgia with the showcase travel team the DirtBags.
One more hit and Gardner-Webb didn’t need to see any more.
“They had a big interest in me. They said they liked the left-handed bat and everything,” Jenkins said. “They told me they wanted me bad and hoped my decision was to go there.”
Jenkins, who is undecided on a major, said faith played a big role in his decision as well.
“It’s a great Christian school, which is what I like. … It feels like a good place to be. It feels like home,” he said.
Rebels coach Allan Chapman said Jenkins is “a joy to coach.”
“He’s just a good kid with a great work ethic,” Chapman said. “He’s what West Lincoln baseball is all about.”
It’ll be roughly 15 months before Jenkins takes his first official at-bat for Gardner-Webb, which offered him an academic scholarship, he said. Before then, he’s currently working out, getting focused on helping West Lincoln be a better team than it was last year, going 24-5 and finishing 12-2 in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference.
That can be his only concern now. His future, collegiately, is already settled.
“The pressure of me having to try and impress to get somewhere is gone,” Jenkins said, “but the pressure for me still busting my tail to do good and keep doing what I’m doing, that’s still there.”