It may not get the national attention of the Cape Cod League, but the Coastal Plains League has gained a solid reputation with baseball scouts across the country. The league gives college players a chance to hone their skills against top-flight competition each summer, using wooden bats. Several former Columbia County standouts have participated in the Coastal Plains League. Former Greenbrier and University of Georgia star Rich Poythress is the most notable. In 2007, while playing for the Thomasville HiToms, Poythress led the Coastal Plains League with 49 RBI, 114 total bases, a .616 slugging percentage and 42 walks. He also hit .324 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and an on-base percentage of .450. This summer, a pair of Columbia County players, former Lakeside star Jeffrey Stoner and Greenbrier product Sam Daniel, are pitching in the Coastal Plains League.
Stoner, the 2010 Columbia County Player of the Year, just completed his junior season at Francis Marion University. He was 4-3 this year with three saves and a 3.55 era. He worked 63.1 innings with 77 strikeouts and only 23 walks.
Stoner burst onto the college scene, going 9-0 with a 2.40 ERA as a freshman in 2011. As a sophomore he finished 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA and nine saves. The big righthander is playing for the Florence Red Wolves this summer. He has made five appearances, working 5.1 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. He is sporting an impressive 1.67 ERA.
Daniel was a second-team all county performer in 2010. He hit .315 with seven homers and 31 RBI that season for the Pack, and he was also 4-1 on the mound and impressed the coaching staff at USC Aiken. The Pacers were ranked No. 7 in the nation at the time of Daniel’s signing. After redshirting in 2010, he saw limited action in 2011 as a freshman. This year, Daniel came into his own. The redshirt sophomore appeared in 22 games for a Pacer squad that went 42-13 and spent several weeks ranked No. 1 in the country. The 6-2, 205-pound, righthander, finished with a 3.42 ERA in 23.1 innings of work. He also struck out 24 batters and walked only five. He recorded two saves and should have an even more expanded role next season for the Pacers. This summer, Daniel is suiting up for the Forest City Owls. Currently, he has made three appearances and has a 3.60 ERA in five innings of work.
Belcher Earns Academic Honor
Former Greenbrier star Nolan Belcher closed out his college career with a tremendous final season at the University of South Carolina. The southpaw finished the season 7-5 for the 43-20 Gamecocks, but his won-loss record does not tell the story of his season. Belcher made 17 starts, working 117 innings, which means he averaged seven innings per start. That number is among the best in the Southeastern Conference. He also had two complete games, a 2.38 ERA, 95 strikeouts and only 16 walks.
To further illustrate his importance to USC this season, Belcher threw 38 more innings than the Gamecocks’ second starter and his 95 strikeouts were 33 more than any other pitcher on the USC staff.
Belcher also wrapped up his college career off the diamond in style. For the spring semester, Belcher, who is graduating with a degree in sports management, was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Reid Getting Statewide Acclaim
Harlem Basketball standout Reggie Reid has been a household name in the county since his first varsity game two years ago. Now, the athletic point guard is getting recognition as one of the best players in the state of Georgia. A basketball Web site (www.hoopseen.com) that covers the peach state recently ranked Reid as the No. 8 player in Georgia for the Class of 2015. He is also regarded as the No. 2 point guard in the class. Reid, who is playing this summer for the Southern Kings AAU team, is coming off a spectacular sophomore campaign for the Bulldogs. He earned first team All-State honors and was named Columbia County Player of the Year after pouring in 27 points per game. He also averaged 7.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 3.7 steals per game. He is starting to get looks from some major Division I programs (Virginia Tech has shown some interest).
I would not be surprised if he has a dozen offers from solid schools this time next year.