Imagine a hitter stepping into the box in a crucial at bat during a state playoff game. Focused on what he must do, the batter takes a couple of cuts and stares down at the third-base coach before he steps up to the plate.
Pitcher Michael Newman won 11 games for the Wolfpack this season and led Greenbrier to the Class AAAA State Semifinals.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The pitcher's first offering comes from an odd angle, a sort of modified sidearm pitch that catches the batter by surprise. The count is 0-1.
The second pitch starts on the outside on the plate but quickly runs in on the batter before he knows what to do. Now it's a pitcher's count, 0-2.
The batter knows he must protect the plate and sees a to-good-to-be true pitch headed down the fat part of the plate and he swings for the fences. The only thing he connects with, however, is air. The bottom fell out of the pitch, a splitter, and the batter walks slowly back to his dugout baffled by what just occurred.
This description was shared by many hitters who had the fortune, or misfortune, of standing in against Greenbrier ace Michael Newman in 2004.
Newman won 11 games for the Wolfpack this season and led Greenbrier (28-5) to the Class AAAA State Semifinals, one series away from competing for the state title.
On June 2, he signed to play college baseball with Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.
"I am still upset about losing (in the playoffs to Columbus)," Newman said. "But I am very excited to sign with Georgia College & State."
Newman signed with the Bobcats less than 48 hours after Greenbrier was eliminated by Columbus, but waiting until the season ended wasn't planned.
"That's just the way it happened," said Newman. "They offered and I signed."
His steady improvement probably landed him the scholarship. Newman, who also drew interest from USC-Aiken, Georgia Southern, Southern Union State and Southern Polytechnic State, went 5-2 in 2003 to 11-0 with a sub-2.0 earned run average this season. He also batted .338 and hit four home runs, the first four of his career.
"He kept getting better and better over the years," said teammate Brooks Robinson. "He is an outstanding competitor with a lot of heart."
Playing with the Bobcats became a reality after Newman visited the Milledgeville campus recently.
"The coaches were great and the campus was great," Newman said. "The most important thing was to find a school that had the best blend of academics and athletics. I know I did that."
Academics were a very important factor for Newman, who carries a 3.7 grade point average. He said he would like to study sports medicine or physical therapy.
"We are very excited to having Michael joining the GCSU baseball program," said Bobcats' head coach Steve Mrowka. "He is an outstanding student-athlete who can make an immediate contribution to the 2005 GCSU Bobcats baseball team."
Newman will join a Bobcats team that finished 23rd in the Collegiate Baseball Magazine NCAA Division II Poll. Competition will be fierce in the Peach Belt conference, which featured three nationally-ranked schools: North Florida, Columbus State and Augusta State.
"I know it will be a competitive league and that excites me," Newman said.
Newman becomes the third Greenbrier senior who plans on playing collegiate baseball. Scott Wandless has signed with USC-Aiken and Robinson will walk on at Western Carolina after signing a football scholarship with the Catamounts. A fourth player, Sam Pitts, has signed to play football at Furman.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.