Beyond the Scoreboard: Gahagan looks to end college career on a high note

Zack GahaganUniversity of North Carolina Baseball v Coastal CarolinaBoshamer StadiumChapel Hill, NCTuesday, March 28, 2017

WLOS - Zack Gahagan has been through a lot in his baseball career at North Henderson High and North Carolina – a couple of major injures, a lot of success on the field as a three-year starter for the Tar Heels, and disappointing finishes to seasons that had higher expectations.

But as he readies for his final season in college, Gahagan is healthy and optimistic that he can put up the kind of numbers to get him drafted by a major-league team for the third time.

After a standout career at North Henderson as a three-spots star, he was the second-ranked shortstop and No. 15 over prospect in the state by one ratings group.

After an ACL tea in high school, he was a 40th round pick by Arizona in the 2014 Major League Draft, but instead stuck with his decision to play collegiately in Chapel Hill.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience to come to this university, and I can’t thank (head coach and Asheville native Mike) Fox enough to give me this opportunity.

“I’ve played with some great guys and make really good friends. And I’ve seen myself grow every year, and that was goal when I came here.”

Gahagan has developed into a valuable infielder who can fill at several positions when needed.

He hit .214 with 31 starts at first and third base as a freshman, batted .297 with 52 starts as a sophomore at the corner infield positions and hit .243 in 61 starts last season at first and second base.

His career numbers include 19 doubles, 14 home runs and 108 RBIs, with 88 runs scored.

Now settled in as the starting second baseman, Gahagan has a lofty goal in mind for his final season.

“Hopefully this last year is when all this hard work paid off and my game will continue to the next level.”

That next level is the College World Series. Last year the Tar Heels were the No. 2 seed nationally but were shockingly knocked out by Davidson in the opening round of NCAA tournament play.

“Little old Davidson came in and put the smackdown on us,” he said. “I guess that’s just baseball, but we’re motivated to not let that happen again.”

And the ultimate next level is playing professionally.

He was drafted last June in the 39th round by the Cincinnati Reds, but that was coming off a disappoint ing junior season in which he was recovering from surgery to fix a blood clot in his right shoulder.

He was playing three months after surgery, and he thinks that was a mistake.

“I probably came back too soon. It limited how I could swing the bat and lift weights, and I battled arm soreness all season,” said Gahagan.

Now he is healthy, 25 pounds heavier and feeling great.

“I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and balls that were not jumping off may bat are now.”

His list of goals for his senior season include staying healthy, leading the Tar Heels on a run for the World Series title and playing well enough to get drafted by a major-league organization for a third time.

“Getting picked again would be a blessing, and it doesn’t really matter what round or how much money is involved,” he said.

“I just love baseball and am confident I can complete at the next level if I get a chance.”

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