Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell is widely regarded as one of the state’s top baseball minds and managers of talent.
This season, his 12th at Ardrey Kell and 28th total, Bagwell guided the Knights to the NCHSAA 4A championship series, which marks his fifth appearance. He has won 475 games and produced nearly 100 college players, but he’s had very few like junior pitcher/outfielder Trey Tujetsch.
Next season Tujetsch will join elite company as one of only three four-year varsity starters in Bagwell’s 12 years at Ardrey Kell joining 2018 graduate and North Carolina commit Cam Brantley and 2011 graduate Logan Ratledge, an N.C. State product currently playing for the Altoona Curve, the AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“That’s a pretty darn good list,” Bagwell said. “The thing with Trey is that he’s extremely talented. And what I mean by that is that everything comes easy for him. There’s no effort in his delivery. Baseball just comes easy to Trey and it will continue to at the high school level. And he will continue to be a superior player.”
Tujetsch is indeed a rare talent. He’s a dominant right hander who has topped out around 93 miles per hour and throws three pitches including a devastating changeup and an ever-improving curve ball. He’s slated as the No. 5 pitcher in the N.C. Class of 2019 and within the top 400 players nationally in Perfect Game’s latest rankings.
“Trey has dominant stuff,” said Providence coach Danny Hignight. “He shows a plus fastball with life and backs it up with one of the best high school changeups I’ve ever seen. He’s pitched in big games now for two years and will continue to have success at the next level.”
When he’s not pitching, Tujetsch is the Knights centerfielder, one of their top run producers and the cleanup hitter for one of the state’s best offenses. He’s also a plus defender, something that Bagwell said is often overlooked.
“He’s a special bat, he gets big hits for us and he’s an athlete,” he said. “It’s one thing people don’t realize about him, but as far a defensive outfielder he’s as good as anyone in the high school game. I promise you that. Oh, no question and without doubt. And I think any other high school coach would tell you that, too.”
This season, Tujetsch shined at the plate, but seemed to be even bigger on the mound where he helped guide the Knights to within one win of their second state championship.
“This team has had a lot of success,” Tujetsch said. “Coach Bagwell put a lot on me this year and gave me motivation to help my team. I knew I had to be a leader and did what I needed to do to help us win.”
After losing his first start, Tujetsch went 8-1 down the stretch with a 1.44 ERA. He took the mound in all of the Knights biggest games, and seemed to always get the big hit at the most crucial of times.
In the Western Regional clinching win, for example, the Knights came back from a 6-1 deficit to beat East Forsyth 7-6 off Tujetsch’s game-winning RBI.
“I hit a pop up that everyone thought was going to be an out,” he said. “They didn’t call it off (on defense) and it ended up being a walk-off to end the game. The student section was running onto the field and everyone was really hype. That was a really good moment for me.”
But it wouldn’t be his last.
In the opening game of the best-of-three championship series against Fuquay Varina, Tujetsch threw a brilliant three-hit shutout where he struck out 10 through six innings.
“I was nervous at first, but once I got into it I calmed down,” he said. “Their student section was loud and it was right on top. They were all in me, but I overcame it, didn’t let it bother me and I pitched pretty well.
“When you know that you have your stuff on it takes so much stress off of you. Now you just have to make pitches, and you know that you can do it. I just take a deep breath, trust it and go for it.”
After his team got down 4-0 in Game 2, Tujetsch helped them rally the following inning with an RBI to tie the game, but that was how his season seemed to go.
And people noticed.
He was the So. Meck 7 Player of the Year, an all-conference and all-state selection and is now the 2018 South Charlotte Weekly Baseball Player of the Year.
“Trey is going to give you a chance to win everytime that he’s out there,” Bagwell said. “He’s learned to pitch without his best stuff. There aren’t many pitchers who will tell you that five out of five starts they’re on and their stuff’s good. Even in the championship series he was very, very good but I’ve seen him pitch better before. But he threw a three-hit shutout and we wouldn’t have wanted anyone else in that situation.
“And he’s a great kid, he has great support and he’s been a dream to coach.”
Tujetsch committed to South Carolina before his junior season, and said that’s his dream school. He has been raised by his grandparents since he was 1 and said he remembers attending Gamecock games as a kid alongside his grandfather, David.
South Carolina is his only offer, although Bagwell and others have said he was attracting major interest. Tujetsch had 14 other visits lined up that summer, but when the Gamecocks offered, Tujetsch jumped at the chance and said he’s excited to get down to Columbia. But he still has one more season to terrorize opposing batters and pitchers alike and try to get the Knights back to the championship series.
“This season gave me a lot of motivation coming into this year just knowing we were right there on the verge of a state championship,” he said. “We’re not going to let what happened last year happen again and the seniors are going to make sure we do the things we need to do to get back.”