I recently previewed the large group of Columbia County baseball players who will be playing for Augusta State and USC Aiken, but those are not the only schools that will feature players from this county. The biggest Columbia County impact might be felt at Francis Marion.
The Patriots are ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation in virtually every preseason Division II poll. Last season, they went 41-16 and came within a run of making the DII World Series. A pair of freshmen from Columbia County were keys to that success.
Former Lakeside standout Jeffrey Stoner did not seem to have much trouble making the adjustment to college baseball. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander was a perfect 9-0 on the mound in 11 starts for Francis Marion. He also sported a terrific 2.40 ERA and struck out 51 batters in just 78⅔ innings of work. There is no doubt Stoner will be a key component for the Patriots this season.
Joining Stoner at Francis Marion this year is former Greenbrier outfielder Dalton Gress.
Gress transferred to South Aiken to finish his high school career. Like Stoner, he had a very good freshman season for the Patriots. He played in 36 games (starting 25), and hit .356 for the season.
In addition to Stoner and Gress, a couple of other Columbia County players will suit up for nationally ranked teams from the Peach Belt Conference.
Jake Sandlin (Greenbrier): 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, freshman, infield:
Georgia College and State University is ranked 23rd in the preseason national rankings.
The Bobcats have done a tremendous job of recruiting kids from Columbia County, and those players have helped Georgia College post some impressive records during the past few years.
This season, only one Columbia County player will be on the roster for the Bobcats.
Sandlin played four seasons on the varsity at Greenbrier and was a two-time All-County performer.
Clayton Miller (Lakeside): 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, sophomore, catcher:
Armstrong Atlantic State is in the No. 25 position in Collegiate Baseball’s national rankings. The Pirates were pleasantly surprised by the emergence of freshman catcher Clayton Miller a year ago.
He was a bit of a late bloomer in high school. He went from being a good high school player to a great player and college prospect as a senior at Lakeside.
He proved to be a great asset for the Pirates last season.
He hit .301 in his first season of college ball and was one of the top freshmen in the Peach Belt.