Columbia County baseball players have made their mark with the Middle Georgia College baseball team this season, and now the former high school stars will vie for the ultimate prize - a National Junior College Athletic Association World Series championship.
The NJCAA World Series begins this weekend in Grand Junction, Colorado. Former Evans High School players Jamal Jones and Steve Dunham, along with former Augusta Christian School standouts Sammy Reed and Brett Newton, will lead the Warriors during the double-elimination event.
"I played at Evans, so it's good to see these Augusta-area players doing well. They've all contributed a lot this year," said Chris Halliday, who now is an assistant coach at Middle Georgia. "There's good baseball in Augusta and Columbia County. We go in there and recruit these guys, and we've had a lot of success with them. We're trying to sign a couple more right now."
Middle Georgia earned a trip to Grand Junction after edging Walter State in the regional championship. The Warriors won Game 1 in Cochran, dropped the second game, then the Warriors clinched a World Series berth by beating the nation's No. 2 ranked team in the deciding third game.
Columbia County players had prominent roles in the regional. Reed struck out 17 batters in nine innings, as Middle Georgia won the opener 2-1 in 11 innings.
"Reed has been unbelievable," Halliday said. "He's pitched two complete games in the postseason and hasn't allowed an earned run."
In Middle Georgia's conference championship game against Young Harris, Reed fanned 18.
Dunham closed out the regional series with a victory in Game 3. He pitched six innings and struck out eight to spark the Warriors to a 6-4 win.
"He did a real good job, and he's had a good season," Halliday said of Dunham, who has compiled an 8-1 record in 2002.
Newton has been solid this season as well. The southpaw has a 6-1 record with a 3.54 earned run average in 53 innings pitched.
Jones has started in center field all season for Middle Georgia. Heading into the World Series, Jones was batting .345, with five home runs and 35 RBI. He also has 20 stolen bases.
Another local player now performing at Middle Georgia is Matt Nixon. The Westside High School graduate plays catcher for the Warriors, and is hitting .305 with 60 RBI.
Augusta Christian's Brian Bennett also is with the Warriors, although the right-handed pitcher is a red-shirt this season.
Middle Georgia last won a World Series title in 1995, and the team placed sixth last season. The Warriors took a 49-16 record into the series, which features 10 teams.
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