2 Triton athletes sign college deals

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 6/10/22

Tristan Ennis and Hayden Pope held their signing ceremonies at Triton this week to celebrate their respective college decisions.

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2 Triton athletes sign college deals

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ERWIN — Both Tristan Ennis and Hayden Pope served leadership roles for their respective teams this spring, being one of the few seniors on their talented, but young rosters. 

The two multi-sport athletes took turns celebrating their next career steps inside Triton’s media center Tuesday.

Pope sealed his short-changed varsity baseball career, disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, by inking an agreement with Methodist University.

“It’s always been a dream (to play at the college level). It’s just the little things that matter that help me get here,” Pope said, highlighting the sacrifices of his mother and training from Triton coach Jake Willis.

“I’m thankful for them, standing by me and pushing me to do better every day.”

Whether it was staying in shape throughout the sports calendar year by playing football and basketball, or increasing his weight room workouts, Pope feels that his stellar senior season wasn’t by accident.

The 6-foot-4 ace saw his velocity increase from last year and it translated into a 7-3 record, which led both Record area and All American Conference pitchers for most wins. He added 69 strikeouts and posted a 3.20 ERA, claiming Daily Record Baseball Pitcher of the Year honors. 

Pope helped Triton to an 18-8 overall record, its best mark since 2013, and claimed the first ever AAC tournament title before opening the state playoffs with a victory.

“I just left everything I had out there,” he said, also adding how disappointed he was not being able to pitch again after the team’s season ended with a second-round loss to West Carteret on May 12.   

Now Pope sets his sights on a new adventure, making the short trip to Fayetteville with additional aspirations in mind.

“It’s close to home and the (MU) coach has done well for the program,” he said, also noting plans to study physical therapy. “I hope I can get a ring while I’m there.”

The Monarchs are fresh off another plus-.500 season, going 26-16 overall and 16-5 in USA South Conference play. Pope joins fellow All-Record selections in Paul Olive and Chase Carroll, two South Johnston standouts that also joined the MU roster in recent years.

“I just tried to do better each year ... and I’ll try to do better next year. Just work hard every day,” Pope said,

Meanwhile, Ennis also credits her well-rounded athleticism as a major factor in signing with The University of Mount Olive softball team. 

The tri-sport athlete also lettered in golf and basketball, helping the Lady Hawks to breakout campaigns in both.

“It helped me stay in shape and it helped me stay in an athlete mindset, too,” Ennis said of her busy schedule. “I was playing all year round, so I never got to a point where I wasn’t doing anything ... I was always ready for the next thing to do.”

Always looking to give “110%” effort in practices and games, the senior captain’s work ethic was a weekly example for a young Triton softball squad.

Ennis led the Lady Hawks with 32 runs while boasting a career-high .415 batting average. She feels her most important contribution, however, was ‘locking down’ left field and ultimately helping Triton to a 16-7 overall record and share of the AAC regular-season championship.

With teammates, coaches and close relatives in attendance Tuesday, Ennis was reminded of why her various Lady Hawks squads have been so successful during her career.       

“All these people here have been my No. 1 supporters. Without their support, I wouldn’t here,” she said.

“We were all family and it carried on to the field and you could tell.”

It’s the same culture that Ennis used in choosing to join UMO, who went 39-13 this spring and tied for first atop the Carolinas Conference standings.

“It was a lot similar to what I’m used to when it comes to a team. When you’re going into a team, you’re going into a family,” she said.

Ennis intends to study computer science.

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040.

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