Former Greenbrier High School baseball star Rich Poythress is back in Jackson, Tenn., with the Jackson Generals after a rehab stint in Arizona.
In early May, Poythress suffered a stress fracture in his foot and was put on the disabled list.
The former four-time All-County baseball selection wasted little time showing the Mariners he was healthy. In five games in Arizona, he hit .385 with three home runs and seven RBI. He also had a .600 on-base percentage.
He rejoined Seattle’s Class Double-AA affiliate in Jackson on July 2, and promptly went 0 for 4.
In his past two games, however, Poythress has gone 3 for 4 at the plate. He is hitting .350 in three games since getting back to Jackson.
Poythress and I traded text messages the other day, and he confidently informed me that he was going to make a “big statement” during the second half of the season.
I have no doubt he will do just that.
Cumpton also heating up
Another former Greenbrier standout playing at the Double-AA level is right-handed pitcher Brandon Cumpton.
The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has been solid all year for the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League. However, in mid-June he picked up a pair of losses.
In each loss, he uncharacteristically gave up four earned runs. He has since reverted to his old, dominant ways.
In his past two starts, Cumpton is 1-0 and has allowed only seven hits and one run in 11 innings.
For the season, Cumpton – 6 feet, 2 inches and 198 pounds – is 8-6 in 16 starts with a team best ERA of 3.13.
If Cumpton does earn a September call-up, he may be joining a playoff contender.
The perennial doormat Pittsburgh Pirates are playing great baseball. They now lead the NL Central and are nine games over .500 for the first time in 20 years.
Do not be surprised if Poythress and Cumpton are in the big leagues by this time next year.
Ex-Panther leads team to the Jam
The Nike Peach Jam is one of the summer’s premier amateur basketball tournaments and attracts a “who’s, who” of the elite college coaches in the nation.
The event is held each July, just across the river in North Augusta.
For many years, Nike always allowed at least one local team to have an exemption to play in the tournament. That changed a few years ago as Nike started making teams earn their spot in the event.
That meant a local team must come up with $25,000-$30,000 (at a minimum), play a top flight schedule all over the country, and most importantly, they had to have the talent to excel at that level. Only the top 16 and under teams would earn a spot in the field at the Peach Jam.
That has actually happened. A pair of former area basketball stars joined forces to assemble one of the finest 16 and under AAU teams on the planet. That team is the Southern Stampede.
The coaches are former Josey and Georgia Southern point guard Michael Stokes and former Lakeside High sharpshooter Matt Scott. Stokes and Scott’s quest began more than six years ago.
They gave themselves a two-hour radius from the Augusta area to try to attract players to their squad. Through a lot of hard work, plenty of phone calls and hundreds of basketball tournaments, they are about to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The Stampede, now sponsored by Nike, have the nation’s 6th-ranked team and recently lost a narrow decision to the team currently ranked number one.
Stokes and Scott also have more than a half dozen kids who seem to pick up Division I offers on a daily basis.
“My phone rings bright and early every morning” said Stokes. “A few big-time programs have offered our entire starting five.
“They want all five.”
Scott, a former Greenbrier High School assistant coach, has been vitally important to helping assemble the team, which has mostly played together for the last six years.
The team features Aquinas guard Ahmed Hill. The 6-foot, 4-inch star has offers from programs all over the country, including UConn and Kansas.
Hill was recently ranked the 26th best player in the class of 2014.
Also, there is 6-foot, 8-inch rising junior JaKeenan Gant of Effingham County. Gant has vaulted up the national rankings during the past two years and is now regarded as the 50th best player in the 2014 class.
He has offers from Georgia, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and several other SEC and ACC schools.
The point guard is 6-foot, 2-inch Marcus Stroman, who has already committed to play for South Carolina.
Thanks to their stellar play this year, the Stampede will play in the Peach Jam, which begins July 18th at Riverview Park in North Augusta.
They will square off with “Each 1 Teach 1” out of Florida at 5 p.m. on the 18th. That is the same AAU team former Duke star and recent first-round NBA draft pick Austin Rivers played for.
Rivers’ little brother, Spencer, now plays for the Florida-based team.
Here are the Stampede’s coaching staff:
Head Coach: Michael Stokes
Assistant Coaches: Matt Scott, Kevin Faires, and Shaland White.