Orange’s Hench named Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year

Updated: June 9, 2022

There are conflicting accounts as to exactly how Ryan Hench earned the nickname “Mayhem.”

One of his parents says it came from his grandmother among the first time she ever saw his rambunctious nature on the baseball diamond.

Hench says it came from Jackson Berini’s grandmother.

“In elementary school, we were leaving class and getting ready to go home,” Hench said after a game last month. “Jackson and I got into her car and basically I had something broken on my body. She said “Good lord, you’re like Mayhem from the Allstate commercials. Always getting something hurt or doing something to get yourself hurt.”

No one could question how Hench got his nickname if they watched Orange’s game against Southern Lee on April 23. In the fourth inning, the Cavaliers’ Ashton Donathan slammed a fly ball toward the infamous left field porch at Orange High Field. It was deep but attainable for Hench in left field. He slammed hard into the fence and went down like he hit a cinderblock wall. After several minutes, he got up. Not only did he finish the game, but he had an RBI single the following inning, and eventually knocked in Berini with a sacrifice fly during an 7th-inning rally that would fall one run short.

Last week, Hench was named the Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year based on a poll of the league’s coaches. Hench was Orange’s top pitcher in its rotation. Even though the run support was lacking during some of his starts, Hench finished 4-2 with a 1.58 ERA.

At the plate, Hench hit .423 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. His five home runs led the CCC.

As a sophomore in 2021, Hench shared the Big 8 Conference Pitcher of the Year award with Northern Durham’s Matthew Lombard.

Hench was Orange’s opening night starter during a season where the Panthers won its first outright conference championship since 2016. In 2021, Orange shared the Big 8 Conference Championship with Northern Durham in a unique format created by the COVID-19 pandemic where only the first meetings between conference rivals counted in the conference standings.

Hench’s hottest stretch of the season came in late March where he went 5-for-6 with seven RBIs, five runs scored, three triples and two home runs over the course of two games. Against Walter Williams on March 22 in Hillsborough, Hench hit 3-for-3 with four RBIs. He had a three-run triple in the first inning, then followed with a solo homer in the third. In the fifth, Hench had another triple. He also earned the win on the mound with eight strikeouts over five innings.

The following night against Southwestern Randolph in Hillsborough, Hench had a two-run triple in the second inning. In the fourth, he slammed another solo homer.

Hench saved some of his best outings against the top teams in the state. Against New Hanover, who was constantly ranked among the top teams in 4A baseball all season, he surrendered just four hits in two innings during a meeting in the Hilltop Invitational in Hillsborough on March 30.

Hench started in the Panthers’ 13-5 victory over Cedar Ridge at Red Wolves Territory, which earned Orange a share of the Central Carolina Conference championship. He struck out 12 over six innings to earn the win. At the plate, Hench had an RBI double in the sixth inning to score Berini as the Panthers broke the game open with four runs in the frame, followed by five more in the seventh inning.

Against Eastern Alamance on April 26, Hench threw six shutout innings in a 2-0 Orange win. He also knocked in both of Orange’s runs. Hench had an RBI single down the third base line in the first inning to bring in Berini, then launched a solo homer to lead off the fifth.

After Orange’s season ended against J.H. Rose in a heartbreaking loss in the third round of the 3A State Playoffs, Hench committed to play baseball at North Carolina.

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