Former Lakeside High School catcher Clayton Miller was a late bloomer. He did not play a key role for the Panthers until his senior season, but he parlayed his move to catcher, along with a huge final prep season at the plate, into a scholarship to Armstrong Atlantic State in Savannah.
Miller continued to work hard after his senior campaign was over, and the hard work paid off.
Last season, he was a pleasant surprise for the coaching staff at Armstrong. Miller not only cracked the starting lineup, but he also hit .301, had 12 doubles and 19 RBI.
Miller, now a sophomore, capped off a huge weekend by being named Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week.
In three victories for his Pirates, Miller was sensational. He opened the three-game series against Concord, last season’s WVIAC Conference champions, by going 1 for 4 with an RBI in Armstrong’s 6-0 win.
That is when Miller really heated up.
On Feb. 11, he went 4 for 5 with his first career home run, scored three runs and drove in four more runs in a 17-10 Pirate victory. He followed that up with a 2 for 3 performance the next day that included four more RBI. For the weekend, Miller hit .583 (7 for 12) with a slugging percentage of .917. He also drove in nine runs in his team’s three wins.
The Pirates are now 6-0 on the season.
Miller has hit safely in all six contests and is now fifth in the PBC in hitting with a .500 average. He also ranks fourth in the conference in RBI.
Evans posts solid season
When Evans High School beat South Effingham 56-54 on Feb. 10 to close out the regular season, the Knights’ record improved to 15-10 on the season. That gives Kevin Kenny and the Knights 130 wins over the past seven years. That averages to 18.6 wins per season in a county not known for its basketball.
As I write, the Knights are preparing for region tournament play. Even if they were to lose and have their season come to an end, their sustained success is worth noting.
I cannot recall another team from Columbia County posting 130 wins through a seven-year stretch. The Knights might be the only county basketball team to have seven consecutive winning seasons.
You have to give coach Kenny and his staff credit. This year’s team had no size and were not a great outside shooting team. That is usually a recipe for disaster. Instead, Evans focused on their major strength – defense.
Evans flat-out gets after their opponents on the defensive end of the floor. That has been a staple of Kenny’s teams, and it has obviously served him well.
Plenty of baseball talent
I recently was talking with a couple of buddies and one of them suggested that this was going to be a down year in the county for baseball.
He backed up the statement with the fact that so much talent has graduated over the past six or seven years. Rich Poythress, Nolan Belcher, Jeff Rowland, Brandon Cumpton, Shawn Ward, Kody Belcher and Will Price are just some of the talented players he was referring to.
While I agree that the county has lost an amazing group of players from the past few years, I still think there is plenty to be excited about.
Thirteen of the 27 players who made last year’s All-County first or second team were underclassmen.
Greenbrier junior standouts Taylor Glover (catcher) and Austin Robinson (pitcher) will garner most of the pre-season hype, and they deserve the attention, but there are still many other exciting young players to watch.