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New GRU coach very familiar with Columbia County

Cumpton gets another start for Pittsburgh

Posted: July 7, 2013 - 12:03am  |  Updated: July 7, 2013 - 1:02am

Though I was admittedly rooting for former Evans and Georgia Southern slugger Michael Holder to get the head coaching post at GRU (he was a finalist), it is hard to argue with the credentials of GRU’s selection.

Jason Eller, 40, was introduced as the new coach of the Jaguar baseball program at a press conference last week. Eller, who played at Georgia State University, spent the last 11 years as an assistant at the University of Georgia. From 2007-12 he served as the Bulldog recruiting coordinator, and was pitching coach the last two seasons, as well.

During his seven-year stint in charge of UGA recruiting, Eller signed 49 players who were selected in the major league baseball draft. He also signed each of the last two Baseball America National Players of the Year (Byron Buxton in 2012 and Clint Frazier in 2013, both top-5 overall picks.)

I spoke to Eller recently about his new job. “I’m excited to hit the ground running. I have already started recruiting,” he said.

Eller is also pleased that GRU is ready to make baseball a priority.

“The fact that we are going to have a paid assistant, that I do not have to worry about teaching a class, and it looks like we are close to a deal on a full-time ball park … that shows me that they are serious about making the program a winner,” added Eller.

I asked him about Columbia County (Eller was at UGA with former Greenbrier standouts Chad Thornhill and Rich Poythress), and before I could finish my question Eller excitedly jumped in. “I know about the great programs in the area. I tried like crazy to get Nolan Belcher and (Brandon) Cumpton, too,” Eller said, referring to the two former Greenbrier pitching aces.

Eller seems to be a solid choice by Athletic Director Clint Bryant. And it is quite clear from our conversation he is already familiar with the quality of baseball played in Columbia County. Now, it is time to get behind Eller and support the Jaguar program.

Cumpton gets another start for Pittsburgh

Well, it appeared he had been called up for only one start, but for the second time this season Cumpton, the former Greenbrier standout, suited up for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night. Back on June 15, Cumpton made his big league debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Cumpton, who starred at Georgia Tech, was outstanding. He struck out the first four batters he faced and did not allow a run in his first four innings. He was taken out of the game in the sixth inning but had a solid pitching line, allowing seven hits and three runs while walking one and striking out five. The Pirates were impressed enough to give Cumpton another start five days later in Cincinnati. And the young right-hander came through again. This time he allowed only five hits and one earned run in five innings of work. He struck out three and walked only one, as he earned his second straight no-decision in a 5-3 Pirates victory. After that start a couple of pitchers returned from injuries and Cumpton was sent back to AAA Indianapolis.

However, his stay in the minors was brief. Cumpton was called back up to Pittsburgh to start for the Pirates on Tuesday against the Phillies. Cumpton, who helped guide Greenbrier to back-to-back state titles in 2006-07, tossed five shutout innings but wore down in the sixth, yielding three runs and suffering his first loss. Once again, the first-place Pirates did not offer much run support for Cumpton as they lost 3-1. In three major league starts, Cumpton is 0-1 with a 4.02 era, but boasts a terrific strikeout-to-walk ratio with 11 K’s and only three bases on balls. The Pirates plan was to send Cumpton down after the start. He was called up to give a weary pitching staff some innings, but Wolfpack fans should be extremely proud of Cumpton’s efforts. He has certainly showed the Pittsburgh brass that he can handle pitching in the big leagues. As it stood last week, Pittsburgh was in first place in the NL Central with the best record in baseball. It would be nice to follow a playoff race with Cumpton playing a key role. Hopefully he will get the chance.

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