Southwest’s Zente signs with HPU to play baseball

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

Southwest Guilford’s Austen Zente has never accepted not working hard. That’s how he’s always approached playing baseball.

So, even in facing the challenges of becoming a top-level player, Zente kept pushing because he wanted to play in college. On Wednesday, he signed with his hometown school, High Point University, to continue his career.

“It’s a weight off your shoulders knowing that you caught someone’s attention, that you were doing what it takes,” said Zente, the son of Tom and Cindy. “Only a fraction of high school players play college baseball, and I’m sure a lot more have that dream. It’s awesome being a part of that fraction going into Division I baseball.” 

Picking up the game at 2 or 3 years old, Zente played baseball throughout his youth. While he played other sports in school, such as running cross-country and playing basketball, he focused most of his attention on playing baseball.

“I just love being out there,” he said. “I sort of almost want basketball season to end so I can start playing baseball. It might sound bad, but like last year, I missed the first three weeks, and I was just getting antsy. I wanted to be out there so bad. I just love being out there on the field, laying out for fly balls — it’s just freedom out there.”

After playing his freshman year at High Point Christian, he transferred to Southwest Guilford, where he’s had a strong presence offensively both at the plate and on the basepaths, and defensively at second base and in center field.

In two years, he’s combined for a .325 batting average with 53 hits, 57 runs 17 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. He was Piedmont Triad 4A all-conference honorable mention as a sophomore and earned a spot on the all-conference team as a junior.

“He’s what makes us go,” Cowboys coach Reid Holmes said. “He’s a difference-maker, both offensively and defensively. Obviously, he has some God-given ability, but he also understands how to play the game. And not only that, he works at his craft. Combine those and you have a guy who could potentially be pretty good.”

It’s rarely been easy, though. The grind of playing baseball over long stretches on top of the endless training and workouts in preparation at times took their toll, Zente said. But, in the end, he was determined to do his best.

“It was just the motivation of wanting to play college baseball and the wanting to go to the next level,” he said. “It’s always playing hard. Even if we’re down 10 runs, I’m still going to lay out for a fly ball. I just grew up pushing people, always wanting to win.”

Growing up in High Point, Zente really didn’t think too much about playing for High Point University, of the Big South Conference. But playing for the Panthers Baseball Club showcase team helped him develop a strong link during his recruitment.

Although he also considered UNC Wilmington, Zente liked the HPU baseball team led by head coach Craig Cozart, with which he already was familiar, and the feel of the campus, which he said was much different than what he expected from living in town.

“Once I visited HPU, a lot of my decision shifted,” said Zente, who wants to study sports medicine. “I really like the coaches. I have a good relationship with them, almost like a friendship. And the campus is amazing. It just blew me away.”