Once again this year, Columbia County had a reason to be proud after the Major League Baseball draft. Two high school standouts and two college standouts who once starred in the county got a call on day two of the draft.
Greenbrier right fielder Rafael "Hoss" Parks headed up the group. Parks was taken in the 29th round by the Houston Astros. He certainly was overshadowed at Greenbrier by other offensive standouts such as Chris Johnson, Rich Poythress and Tim Thornhill this season.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound speed burner had already impressed scouts during the summer and fall. His blazing speed and powerful arm made him a draft pick. The plan is for Parks to go to the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie and try to realize some of his potential.
Also going the draft-and-follow route is former Evans star Shawn Ward. For years, Ward has impressed anyone who caught an Evans game. He is one of the top defensive outfielders to ever play in Columbia County, and he used his speed and instincts to roam center field effortlessly.
Ward emerged his junior season as one of the top bats in the area. He batted better than .450 with nine home runs and led the area with 56 RBIs as he helped lead Evans to the AAAA Final Four. This spring, Ward had the Knights in the playoffs once again as they advanced to the state quarterfinals.
The Seattle Mariners obviously were impressed when they nabbed Ward in the 47th round. He will play at Middle Georgia College next season. Both Parks and Ward have a great chance to be drafted again before their careers are over.
Like Parks, Nick Wandless and Robert Davis played for Ed Williams at Greenbrier. The duo has spent the past couple of seasons piling up huge numbers at the University of South Carolina Aiken. Wandless, who did not pitch until his senior season at Greenbrier, emerged this season as one of college baseball's premier pitchers. He was dominant, going 2-1 with a Peach Belt Conference record of 17 saves. He also had an ERA of 1.56 and struck out 48 batters, while walking only nine in 34.2 innings. Opponents hit only .137 against Wandless this season.
For his efforts, Wandless earned All-Conference, All-Region and D-II First Team All-American honors. He is the NCAA D-II career record holder for appearances (114) and saves (32). For his career, Wandless went 17-5 with an impressive era of 2.33.
He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round of the draft.
Wandless' teammate Robert Davis was selected four years ago by the San Francisco Giants. After spending a season at Manatee Junior College in Florida, Davis transferred to USC Aiken. While with the Pacers, Davis has been superb. He led the team in six offensive categories this season pacing the Pacers in batting average (.345), hits (69), doubles (22), home runs (5), RBI (57) and slugging percentage (.488). Davis was chosen by the Giants in the 50th round.
Congratulations, guys, and best of luck in the future.
Middle school game comes down to the wire
The first Columbia County Middle School All-Star Game ended in thrilling fashion Sunday afternoon as the East Team rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to capture the victory 6-5 over the West. Columbia Middle School's Matt Blume hit a roller between first and second to plate the game-winner.
The West Team had managed to score two of their own in the top of the seventh, thanks to a key single from Chris Gresham (Evans Middle) and a ground-rule double off the bat of Tyler Barden (Evans Middle). That gave the West a 5-4 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh.
The game featured the top 30 rising freshman baseball players in Columbia County and was played at Evans High School. Tevin Nelson, of Evans Middle School, was selected as the game's MVP, while Grovetown Middle's Eddie Letbetter earned Top Pitcher honors for the East. Ben Morgan (Greenbrier Middle) and Michael Brantley (Columbia Middle) also turned in solid performances for the West Team.
Score by inning
R H E
West 110 001 2 5 12 3
East 201 100 2 6 13 2
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