It hasn't all been that easy, though. Obviously naturally gifted, Gore didn't just stumble upon his success. He had to work for it. And he had to realize that he wasn't, in fact, the best.

Back in August 2016, Gore competed at Petco Park in the Perfect Game All-American Classic, along with the two players drafted ahead of him--Royce Lewis and Hunter Greene--as well as an entire host of talented players. In Gore's mind, some of those players were better than he was.

"I wanted to be the best player in the country," Gore said. "And when I played in the (Classic), I wasn't the best player in the country at that point.

"I just had a lot of work to do."

That wasn't much of an issue.

"The biggest thing about MacKenzie, even from when he was a ninth grader, was his drive and his work ethic," said Whiteville pitching coach Fielding Hammond. "And a lot of that goes back to his parents. They've always kept him humble.

"Coach Harwood has always done a good job making him keep that work ethic and keep that drive. I think everything else has kind of followed."

What followed was 15 pounds of added muscle, which led to increased strength and endurance. Gore improved his velocity. He started pitching more like he would have to at the next level, mixing in offspeed pitches more frequently and on the rare occasions he was behind in counts.

What followed was Gore once again leading Whiteville back to a state championship and, despite his objections, a third state championship MVP award.

So Gore did what any humble, small-town, team-first Whiteville boy would do--what the best player in the country would do.

He gave the award to someone else--Jake Harwood, the coach's son who picked up the win in the second game of the state championship.

"My time was done," Gore said. "I didn't really need an MVP to end it. I just needed a state championship."

For Coach Harwood, who never felt like he could help Gore on the field any more than he was already helping himself, that moment meant everything.

"It meant to me a lot as a coach," he said. "It showed that we were doing something right here in Whiteville."

High School Player of the Year
1992Preston Wilson, of/rhp, Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.) HS
1993Trot Nixon, of/lhp, New Hanover HS, Wilmington, N.C.
1994Doug Million, lhp, Sarasota (Fla.) HS
1995Ben Davis, c, Malvern (Pa.) Prep
1996Matt White, rhp, Waynesboro Area (Pa.) HS
1997Darnell McDonald, of, Cherry Creek HS, Englewood, Colo.
1998Drew Henson, 3b/rhp, Brighton (Mich.) HS
1999Josh Hamilton, of/lhp, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh, N.C.
2000Matt Harrington, rhp, Palmdale (Calif.) HS
2001Joe Mauer, c, Cretin-Derham Hall HS, St. Paul, Minn.
2002Sott Kazmir, lhp, Cypress Falls HS, Houston
2003Jeff Allison, rhp, Veterans Memorial HS, Peabody, Mass.
2004Homer Bailey, rhp, LaGrange (Texas) HS
2005Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
2006Adrian Cardenas, ss/2b, Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
2007Mike Moustakas, ss, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS
2008Ethan Martin, rhp/3b, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.
2009Bryce Harper, c, Las Vegas HS
2010Kaleb Cowart, 3b/rhp, Cook HS, Adel, Ga.
2011Dylan Bundy, rhp, Owasso (Okla.) HS
2012Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.
2013Clint Frazier, of, Loganville (Ga.) HS
2014Alex Jackson, of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
2015Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa
2016Mickey Moniak, of, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, Calif.
2017MacKenzie Gore, lhp, Whiteville (N.C.) High