In Division II baseball, there's no question that the top conference in the country is the Peach Belt Conference.
As evidence, just take a look at the 2002 season.
Columbus State University finished the regular season at third place in the conference, then went on to win the Division II national championship.
Also, each year it seems like every top team in the Peach Belt features players from Columbia County, and it's not just the local squads, Augusta State University and USC Aiken.
Perennial Division II powers Kennesaw State and Georgia College & State University have been extremely successful with recruits from the CSRA, and this season is no different - Kennesaw State was the No. 1 ranked team in the pre-season Peach Belt Conference poll.
The Fighting Owls also are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally in two separate Division II pre-season baseball polls.
Former Augusta Christian standout Sammy Reed is on the Kennesaw State roster this season. The 5-10, 185 lb. pitcher is the younger brother of Brad Reed, who also starred at AC and Kennesaw State. Sammy is expected to be one of the Fighting Owls' top relief pitchers in 2003.
There are many Other area natives now playing Peach Belt baseball. Following are the local players and their respective teams.
Augusta State: Justin Walker (Evans High School), freshman pitcher; Preston Crews (Lakeside High School), freshman infielder; Wes Ward (Evans), sophomore pitcher; Chuck Harrington (Harlem High School), sophomore pitcher; Matt May (Harlem), senior outfielder; Alan Cannell (Greenbrier High School), sophomore pitcher.
USC Aiken: Bradley Key (Greenbrier), sophomore pitcher and third baseman; Nick Wandless (Greenbrier), freshman pitcher; Chris Wilson (Greenbrier), freshman pitcher.
Georgia College & State: Brett Newton (Augusta Christian), junior pitcher.
Throughout the college season, I'll keep you posted on how these local athletes are doing on the diamond.
If I had one or two to keep an eye on, they would be ASU senior Matt May and USC-A sophomore Bradley Key.
May has been one of the Jaguars steadiest players the past three seasons, while Key was named to the Peach Belt Conference All-freshman team last year.
Super Bowl Pick
In my previous column, I discussed some interesting angles to the upcoming Super Bowl, but I failed to give you my take on the game.
So, as you get ready to watch the action this evening, here are my predictions.
Most experts seem to be jumping on the Oakland Raiders' bandwagon. I think the Raiders are a good team, but don't forget the old saying, "Defense wins championships."
Tampa Bay has the best defense in the NFL, so I'll take the Buccaneers in a close one: Tampa Bay 24, Oakland 20.
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