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Wray signs with South Alabama

From RHS Coach Chris Heaps’ perspective, if Chad Wray continues the caliber of work and dedication he has shown at Russellville, he’ll “be a big time contributor” to the University South Alabama’s program, with which Wray signed last week.

“Chad was a big part of our formula last year and is going to be one of the most crucial parts of our formula this year,” Heaps said. “We’re so proud to have been blessed, just for a while, to have this talent.” Heaps said while Wray might not have been given many moments to shine at Russellville to this point, he will be a key part of the school’s chance at another trip to Montgomery in the coming season.

Wray, who plans to major in civil engineering or physical therapy and would love to progress to the Major Leagues, said South Alabama just felt like the right fit for him. “The atmosphere down there is great. It’s always warm, so that’s a plus,” Wray said. “It’s a baseball school.” He was also impressed by the school’s commitment to helping their athletes stay on track academically.

Wray will play under head coach Mark Calvi.

“Chad is a guy who came to our Prospect Camp. He was one of those in-state, under-the-radar guys who came in and threw very well at our camp,” Calvi said. “This is where he wanted to be, and he hit it off with assistant Coach Bob Keller.

“I thought it was a no-brainer: you have a big-bodied, right-handed pitcher who is up to 89 with a good slider and splitfinger (fastball). We have had a lot of success with guys like that – under-the-radar guys who develop. Hopefully, Chad will be in the next wave of that type of pitcher who develops here and does some big things for us.”

Wray went 7-1 with one save and one complete game in 15 appearances last season and recorded a 3.10 ERA in 36 1/3 innings pitched. He was selected to compete in the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Event last summer.

At USA, in just his second season at the helm, Calvi led the Jaguars to their 14th Sun Belt Conference championship and 25th NCAA Regional appearance after recording the program’s first 40-plus win season since 2003. He was named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year and American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond South Central Region Coach of the Year.
Heaps said seeing Wray sign last week to play at the next level – as well as teammates Judd Ward and Cody Greenhill, who signed at Auburn – was a proud moment for him and his coaching staff.

“It’s quite a tribute to your program when guys get to move on to the next level,” Heaps said. “It’s very rare to have what we’ve had in the past two years as far as team accomplishments … What we have accomplished in the past two years as far as state championships is uncommon, but it can’t happen unless you have uncommon guys who are willing to commit to an uncommon work ethic.”

Superintendent Heath Grimes shared in Heaps pride. “Any time our school system is represented by athletes like this, we’re proud of their accomplishments,” Grimes said. “We want to see them succeed on so many different levels, and we hope we’ve had a little part in giving them the tools to do that.”

Also taking pride in Wray’s accomplishments were his parents.

“I’m so proud for him,” mom Teena Wray said. “He’s worked really hard to get it.”

“I’m excited for him,” dad Royce Wray added. He encouraged his son to “enjoy what he’s doing, and take it all in, because it only lasts for a little while.”

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