Ben Dukes did not want his prep career to end the way it did.
Family and friends gather around Greenbrier High School's Ben Dukes as he signs to play baseball at Augusta State University.
Dukes and the rest of his senior teammates became the first group to miss the playoffs in Greenbrier history.
"Man, it was real tough to deal with," said Dukes. "Statesboro was a real hot team. We took them to a three-game series and beat them by (the mercy rule) in one game, and they beat us by a run in their two games. Then they beat Evans and Lakeside by, like, eight runs. I thought we were hot going into that series, but we just ran into a team that was hotter."
The left-handed pitcher will get another chance to play baseball - he has signed with Augusta State.
Dukes, who led starters in wins, joins Brad Ramsbotham (USC Aiken) as Wolfpack players who have signed from this senior class.
But Dukes (5-2) and Ramsbotham will go from teammates to rivals.
"Augusta State and Aiken are like Greenbrier and Lakeside," Dukes said. "Augusta State loses a lot of recruits to Aiken, so there is a big rivalry there."
The Jaguars will use Dukes out of the bullpen next season, and the opportunity to play early was one of the reasons he picked Augusta State over USC Aiken.
Dukes will rejoin former Greenbrier catcher Jeremy Armstrong at Augusta State.
"Jeremy is a great catcher and he knows how to work with a pitcher," Dukes said. "I am real excited to play with him again."
Playing for Augusta State means playing in the Peach Belt Conference, arguably Division II's strongest baseball conference.
"The competition level is exciting," Dukes said. "It seems like every year someone from the conference is competing for a national title.
"I was watching the draft and saw three players from (Peach Belt foe) Georgia College & State get drafted in the first five rounds. It is an elite conference with elite players."
Dukes added that he has a great deal of work to do before he worries about being drafted.
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