Rocky Mount, N.C. – Since 1999, N.C. Wesleyan College has honored 64 former athletes, administrators, and coaches by enshrining them in its Hall of Fame. These individuals have created a higher standard for Bishop athletics and were selected based on their outstanding accomplishments. This year’s class meets these same standards and will comprise the 18th group of honorees. The North Carolina Wesleyan Department of Athletics is pleased to announce that the 1999 National Champion Baseball Team, along with veteran coaches Charlie Long and Ernie Jones, have been chosen to comprise its 2016 Hall of Fame class.
The 1999 Battling Bishop Baseball Team secured the program’s second Division III National Championship with a thrilling 1-0 win over St. Thomas on June 1, 1999 in Salem, Virginia. The victory remains the only 1-0 championship win in the history of Division III baseball.
Making their 11th overall and 3rd straight World Series appearance, the Bishops put together the most successful NCAA tournament run in school history by winning eight straight games to clinch the title. NCWC opened with wins over Brandeis and Cal-Lutheran, while game three saw NCWC face off against St. Thomas for a chance to play for the title.
St. Thomas jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but Wesleyan’s bats exploded in the bottom of the fifth with six hits in a row to cut the lead to 5-4. Closer Buddy Hernandez entered the game in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third with no outs. Hernandez forced a short popup to center, and after an intentional walk to load the bases, he reached back to strike out the next two batters.
The momentum carried over as Jeremy Stewart homered in the bottom of the seventh to complete the comeback. The game remained tied at 5-5 until the bottom of the tenth when Stewart singled and moved to second on a David Capobianco sac-bunt. Barry Blake was intentionally walked to set the stage for Nick Buonocore, whose RBI-single to right scored Stewart and advanced NCWC to the title game.
Wesleyan would again meet St. Thomas the championship. The Bishops scored what turned out to be the lone run of the game in the top of the first. Scott Robeson’s leadoff single was followed by an Andy Jones sac-bunt, and Stewart promptly drove him home with a single up the middle. In an outstanding performance, hurler Sean Fleming made the lone run hold up by allowing just four hits.
In the bottom of the ninth with Hernandez on the mound, St. Thomas loaded the bases with one out. Hernandez proceeded to throw the biggest pitch of his career… a sharp curve that was grounded to Stewart, who started the 5-4-3 double play that ended the game and gave North Carolina Wesleyan its second National Championship and a remarkable 42-9 overall record. The Bishops had previously captured the crown in 1989, with the ’89 team garnering Hall of Fame induction in 2006. With national titles earned exactly ten years apart, it is now fitting that the ’99 team’s induction follows suit a decade later. The entire 1999 North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishop baseball roster follows:
Robbie Adams Tim Autry Barry Blake Pat Bullard Nick Buonocore
David Capobianco Ryan Cramer Jim Faraci Russ Fink Sean Fleming
Buddy Hernandez Chris Johnson Daniel Johnson Andy Jones Steve Kadlick
Jon Markle Jason Maurer Andrew McFarland Kevin McNeil James Pitney
Jon Rardin Scott Robeson Dan Salay Brett Schultz Jayson Sigley
Jed Snead Jeremy Stewart Carl Wheeless Mike Wilchinski Taylor Williams
Brian Woolston Tim Wright Joel Yednock Head Coach Charlie Long Assistant Coach Ernie Jones Assistant Coach Jerry Edwards
Wesleyan’s second 2016 inductee is the head coach of its storied 1999 team, Charlie Long, who recently completed his 25th year with the N.C. Wesleyan Department of Athletics. Entering his 20th season as head baseball coach, Long has racked up 429 career wins, second only to inaugural Hall of Famer Mike Fox.
In the fall of 1991, Long joined the Bishops’ staff as head volleyball coach while serving as the school’s first full-time assistant baseball coach. In 1995, he functioned as the Bishops’ interim head coach and led Wesleyan to the Conference Championship, making it to the title game of the South Regional.
Long took over as full-time head coach for the Bishops in 1999. That championship season saw him named both the Dixie Conference and South Region Coach of the Year, as well as the North Carolina College Coach of the Year and American Baseball Coaches Association National Coach of the Year. Seven years later in 2006, the veteran skipper again earned South Region Coach of the Year honors after leading NCWC to its 12th World Series appearance. The Bishops, who received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning the USA South Tournament, hosted and won the South Regional crown.
The 2009 and 2010 seasons saw Long earn USA South Coach of the Year honors for the second and third times of his career after leading NCWC to back-to-back USA South Regular Season crowns, bringing the program’s all-time total to 17. Wesleyan also secured its 6th Conference Tournament Title in 2009, as well as the program’s 21st appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, Long has captured five USA South (formerly Dixie) Conference Championships, while leading Wesleyan to a 16-9 overall record in NCAA Tournament play. He has also guided four players to All-American honors, while several have gone on to play at the professional level.
The Bishops’ final 2016 inductee, Ernie Jones, served 17 seasons with the North Carolina Wesleyan College baseball program and made his mark as the longest-tenured assistant coach in NCWC history. His #8 jersey, in fact, was retired in the fall of 2015.
Jones transferred to Wesleyan in the fall of 1991 to continue his collegiate playing career with the Bishops. His two-year tenure saw the area native play in two South Regional championships and one College World Series. A first team All-Conference performer at shortstop, he is regarded as one of the best defensive players in program history, turning in an impressive .961 fielding percentage during his career.
A 1993 Wesleyan graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, Jones made a full-time return to his alma mater in 1999 as assistant to Long, setting the stage for the team’s historic national championship run… a feat that he helped accomplish alongside his brother, Andy, who anchored second base for NCWC.
Jones teamed with Long for 16 more seasons and was a part of over 400 victories. As both a player and coach, he helped NCWC capture ten conference regular season and/or tournament championships, six NCAA Tournament berths, three regional championships, a trio of World Series appearances, and of course, the 1999 Division III National Championship.
The Department of Athletics extends sincere congratulations to each of the 2016 inductees, whose contributions to the overall mission of the college have been exhibited in their accomplishments. To these inductees, the Battling Bishops offer thanks and admiration by bestowing this honor upon them!
An official induction ceremony is will take place the evening of October 15th as part of North Carolina Wesleyan’s 2016 Homecoming festivities.