The following are the picks for the 2006 Columbia County News-Times All-County Baseball Teams:
C: Paul Miller, Sr., Lakeside
Miller emerged as one of the area's top power hitters late in the season. He hit five homers and batted .364 for the Panthers. Also, he was solid behind the plate and as tough as they come.
1B: Tim Thornhill, Sr., Greenbrier
Thornhill led the Pack with a .458 batting average. He had four homers and 10 doubles and drove in 35 runs. His on-base percentage of .559 was among the best in the area. He is the third Thornhill to be named First Team All-County, joining brothers Mark and Chad.
2B: Trey Crabill, Sr., Augusta Christian
Crabill hit .430 this season with 7 homers and 40 RBI. He also had an .849 slugging percentage and led the Lions with 11 doubles. He was a key reason the Lions captured the SCISA state title.
3B: Rich Poythress, Sr., Greenbrier
I laugh when people say he had a down year. The UGA-bound Poythress hit 9 homers and drove in 43 runs despite being pitched around all year. He finished his career with 31 homers. He is also only the second player in county history to be named All-County for four straight seasons (joining Bradley Key).
SS: Chris Johnson, Sr., Greenbrier
Batted .445 with a county best 13 homers and 48 RBI. Also capped his brilliant season with three homers in the Pack's two-game sweep of Marist in the state finals. "Fud" has signed to play at Middle Georgia.
OF: Shawn Ward, Sr., Evans
Ward has had a stellar career for the Knights. He mans center field as well as anyone on the high school level. Also, he's about as good a clutch hitter as we have had in the county the last few years. He hit 17 homers and drove in nearly 90 runs over the last two seasons. He was drafted in the 47th round by the Seattle Mariners.
OF: Cal Morris, Sr., Greenbrier
Morris showed tremendous power from the left side. He finished the season hitting .352 with six homers and 30 RBI. Morris had a walk-off home run to beat Bainbridge in round one of the state playoffs. He's an extremely hard worker.
OF: Eric Schnitzler, Sr., Harlem
Along with Evan Slagle, he helped carry the Bulldog offense in 2006. Schnitzler hit for power and average and was among the county leaders in six offensive categories.
OF: Jeff Rowland, Jr., Greenbrier
Rowland had a huge year after transferring in from Lakeside. He hit .411 with 7 homers and 32 RBI and tied for the team lead with 54 runs scored in just 112 plate appearances. He also was as smooth as silk roaming center field for the Pack. He should be heavily recruited next season and was selected along with teammate Brandon Cumpton to play for Team Georgia this summer.
DH: Josh Whitaker, Jr., Augusta Christian
Whitaker has helped to guide ACS to back-to-back state championships. Along the way, he's piled up some big numbers and plenty of honors. This season he hit .507 with 10 homers and 44 RBI in just 71 official at bats with a slugging percentage of 1.028. He was named the SCISA Player of the Year. Also, he was 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA on the mound.
Utility: Kevin Millward, So., Evans
With the Knights losing so many players from last year's team they needed someone to step up and help Shawn Ward lead the team this season. Millward did just that. He was 7-2 on the mound and hit over .400 with five homers and over 30 RBI at the plate.
Utility: J.C. Huffman, Jr., Lakeside
Huffman began the season on a tear and never slowed up. He ended the year with a .443 batting average, eight homers and 25 RBI. Also he had eight doubles and 27 runs scored. He played first base and third base and was one of the Panthers' top pitchers as well.
P: Nolan Belcher, So., Greenbrier
Belcher went 15-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 156 strikeouts in just 67.3 innings. It does not get more dominant than that. Also, he hit .395 with 13 doubles and 32 RBI. He could wind up the most decorated player to ever play in Columbia County, and that is really saying something.
P: Brandon Cumpton, Jr., Greenbrier
Any other year Cumpton would be praised as the county player of the year and perhaps get mentioned among the best pitchers to ever toe the rubber in Columbia County. Belcher's dominance may have allowed some people to overlook just how good Cumpton was this year. He finished 14-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 55.6 innings. From the plate, he hit .359 with 40 RBI.
P: Josh Sizemore, Sr., Augusta Christian
When Belcher transferred to Greenbrier the Lions needed someone to pick up the slack, and Sizemore was the man for the job. He was 9-1 with an ERA of 1.84. He also had 76 strikeouts in just 58.2 innings of work. At the plate he hit .319 with three homers.
P: Kyle Golden, Jr., Evans
Golden really came on as the season went on for Evans. He finished with a 6-2 mark and an ERA of 2.10. He was a great big-game pitcher for Evans this spring. Golden has been selected to play in the CSRA Prospect Showcase later this summer.
P: Mike Sanders, Sr., Harlem
Sanders put the Bulldogs on his back late in the season. He was as valuable to his team as any player in the area this year. Without Sanders the Dogs likely would have been on the outside looking in during state tourney time.
C: Wes Baxter, Sr., Evans
1B: Wayne House, Sr., Augusta Christian
2B: Michael Hester, Jr., Greenbrier
SS: Paul Bordon, Sr., Lakeside
3B: Evan Slagle, Sr., Harlem
OF: Rafael Parks, Sr., Greenbrier
OF: Matt Stark, Sr., Evans
OF: Toree Scott, Jr., Harlem
DH: Tyler Bourdo, Jr., Augusta Christian
Utility: Alex Sickman, Sr., Evans
P: Trey Dove, Sr., Lakeside
Augusta Christian: Taylor Hensley, Ben Kilpatrick, Brad Meister, Tanner Helfrich, Sr.
Augusta Prep: Spencer Morgan, Trey Minor
Evans: Pat Foster, Cory Rodgers, Josh Brodhecker
Greenbrier: Russ Winter
Harlem: Alex Hintz, Kyle Knight, Rodney Scruggs
Lakeside: John Arena, Jay Krenz, Robbie Miller
Coach of the Year
Ed Williams: Greenbrier
Columbia County is blessed with several terrific coaches so this is always a tough decision. All four of the county's public schools earned state playoff berths, and Augusta Christian won its second straight SCISA state title. All that said, this year the choice was a little easier than normal.
Williams, in his final season at the helm of the Greenbrier program, led the Pack to a 35-1 mark and the Class AAAA state crown. The Pack finished the season ranked in three separate national polls including No. 8 in the nation according to CNNSI.com.
Greenbrier had a target on their back all season. Everyone was gunning to knock off the top ranked team in AAAA. People forget how tough it is to live up to huge expectations, and that is exactly what Greenbrier had all season. Williams certainly benefited from an extremely talented group of youngsters, but he definitely guided his troops in the right direction all season. Williams is stepping down to pursue a position in administration at Greenbrier. He will be sorely missed. I'm just glad he got a chance to end his tenure as coach with a state title.
Chris "Fud" Johnson, Sr., Greenbrier
A few months ago if I were predicting who would claim this honor, Rich Poythress, Shawn Ward or Josh Whitaker would have come to mind. Greenbrier shortstop Fud Johnson would have been down the list a bit. From Greenbrier's very first game, though, he served notice that he could swing the bat with anyone. He opened the season by launching two homers that game. Who would have thought he would end the season 35 games later with a three-homer day as Greenbrier captured the state title? He was the star of stars in the state championship series, overshadowing the Packs' dynamic duo on the mound by hitting three homers and driving in six runs. Not bad for a kid who missed his entire junior season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during basketball season. After recovering, he chose not to play basketball to prepare himself for a big year on the diamond. Well, it is hard to argue with his decision after the incredible season in 2006. For the year, Johnson hit .445 with a county best 13 homers. He also led Greenbrier with 48 RBI, 14 doubles, 53 base hits, 54 runs scored and a slugging percentage of .891. He also only struck out eight times in over 140 plate appearances (119 at bats and 22 walks). If Johnson was 6-2 he would likely be signing a Major League contract this week. Instead the diminutive slugger will head to Cochran, Ga. this fall to play at junior college power Middle Georgia. Don't be shocked when he puts up monster numbers for the Warriors this time next year.
of the Year
Nolan Belcher, So., Greenbrier
I caught some grief last season when I made Nolan Belcher the first freshman to be named Columbia County Player of the Year. There were certainly some other deserving players. Greenbrier's Rich Poythress pounded out 13 homers, and Evans star Shawn Ward hit 9 homers and drove in an area best 56 runs. To me, Belcher's accomplishments were impossible to ignore.
In 2005 he led Augusta Christian to the SCISA state championship going 10-0 on the mound and yielding only one earned run all season. He also swung a pretty good stick for the Lions as well.
When I heard the southpaw was transferring to Greenbrier I was really interested to see how he would handle the jump in competition. Well, I'd say he handled it OK. All he did was turn in arguably the most impressive season of any pitcher in county history.
Belcher finished the season 15-0 with an ERA of 0.73. He also struck out 156 batters including striking out 18 of 22 batters faced versus Bainbridge in round one of the state playoffs. He faced 322 batters and gave up only 27 hits and seven earned runs all season. Oh yeah, Belcher was a pretty good hitter too. He batted .395 with 13 doubles, two homers and 32 RBI. He did all this in only 86 at bats. He boasted an on-base percentage of .505 and struck out three times all year.
All those numbers and he led the Pack to their fourth state championship in 10 years of existence. So now after two varsity seasons, Belcher is 25-0 with an ERA under 1.00, nearly 300 strikeouts, two state titles and now two Columbia County Player of the Year Awards.
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