Greenbrier center fielder Jeff Rowland belongs to a family heritage filled with baseball. When asked, the Wolfpack rising senior rattled off names of five extended family members who have played college or professional baseball.
"Baseball is the center of the family," Jeff said. "When we get together - both swides of the family - it's not normal. There's always sports. It runs in the family."
The next generation of Rowlands looks just as talented.
Jeff, along with his sister Casey, has brought the Rowland name to the top of the list of Columbia County baseball talent. While big brother's exploits have been well-documented as Greenbrier claimed the GHSA AAAA state championship with a 35-1 record this season, little sister made her impact more recently.
Eleven-year-old Casey led the Martinez-Evans Little League Cardinals to a MELL championship last week by batting 2-for-3 with a home run. Casey, the only girl on the team, was drafted by the Cardinals as a 9-year-old. Cardinal coach Tommy Starnes chose her over several boys after a leaguewide tryout.
"All the other managers thought I was crazy, but it turned out to be one of the best picks I've made," Starnes said.
Casey said the option to play among the boys in the Martinez-Evans Little League came after a try at fastpitch softball didn't offer enough competition. Since joining the Cardinals, Casey said, she hasn't had any trouble making the transition.
"They treat me like any other player on the team," Casey said of her teammates. "It's kind of weird being the only girl, but they know I can throw hard."
Casey still excels on the softball field, too. Her Greenbrier Middle School fastpitch softball team won the area title last season.
Jeff's state championship came as a starter on the Greenbrier baseball team. Since the Wolfpack won the title June 3, Jeff's schedule hasn't slowed at all. The rising senior was named to Team Georgia and just returned from a tournament in Oklahoma.
"The competition was tough. Everybody was throwing mid-80s to upper 90s," Jeff said.
Despite the pitching talent, Jeff got at least one hit in every game he played in the tournament. He was named to the All-Tournament team after Team Georgia went 6-4 overall, including a win over eventual tournament winner Texas. Since then, Jeff has joined another team, the Savannah Chain, and will play at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, next month along with Greenbrier teammates Brandon Cumpton and Rich Poythress.
While Jeff's .411 batting average and seven home runs often thrilled the Greenbrier fans, Jeff said he feels the same way when watching his sister hit a home run.
"I get more excited when she hits one than when I do. I'm proud of her," he said.
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