It sounds like a broken record to say it, but 2007 was another tremendous season for baseball in Columbia County.
Greenbrier lost six starters and its head coach from a year ago but still managed to race through the playoffs and repeat as Georgia's Class AAAA state champs.
Augusta Christian had to replace 11 seniors from 2006, but somehow claimed its third consecutive South Carolina Independent Schools Association Class AAA state crown.
We also saw the emergence of some terrific players who will be the stars of tomorrow. As always, the task of selecting the best was difficult. Some players simply were impossible not to include in our 2007 Columbia County News-Times All-County Teams.
C - Taylor Hensley (Sr., Augusta Christian)
Hensley will pitch on the college level, but he was the county's top catcher in 2007. He hit sixth in the county with a .416 batting average, was third in home runs with five and also scored 29 runs. On the mound he was 7-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
1B - Josh Whitaker (Sr., Augusta Christian)
This was another monster season for Whitaker. He led the Lions to a third consecutive title and just missed winning the county's triple crown. He was second in hitting (.473) while leading the county in home runs (10) and RBI (53). He was also tops in the county in virtually every other hitting category. Kennesaw State is getting one heck of a player.
2B - Wesley Morris (Sr., Harlem)
Morris was the glue of another solid squad at Harlem. He led the county with 15 doubles and was seventh in hitting (.404) and fourth in RBI (31). He was like a vacuum at second base for the Bulldogs, too.
3B - J.C. Huffman (Sr., Lakeside)
He was in the top 10 in the county in virtually every hitting category in 2007. He hit .383 with five homers and 28 RBI. He also hit eight doubles and tallied 56 total bases. He was also outstanding on the mound, with a 6-2 record in 47 innings with 59 strikeouts.
SS - Tyler Bourdo (Jr., Augusta Christian)
Bourdo doesn't know what it feels like to lose. He has won four state titles out of a possible six in baseball and football in his career at Augusta Christian - and he has one more season to go. He hit .344 with four home runs, four triples and 26 RBI this season. He also managed to go 5-1 on the mound with a 3.28 ERA.
OF - Jeff Rowland (Sr., Greenbrier)
He was a major key to Greenbrier's second consecutive state title. He was third in the county with a .441 batting average, hit three home runs, scored 40 runs and led the county with 31 walks. He is so smooth defensively you almost take for granted just how good he is.
OF - Teddy Leverett (Jr., Evans)
Teddy had a breakout season in 2007. He was expected to start, but no one expected him to finish fourth in the county in hitting (.436). He also scored 29 runs and was 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts.
OF - Patrick Gamblin (So., Harlem)
Gamblin edged out Leverett as the breakout player this spring. He was tops in the county with a .488 batting average and was second with 38 RBI. He also had 14 doubles and scored 32 runs. This youngster has a bright future.
U - Rodney Scruggs (Sr., Harlem)
Scruggs played first base and pitched for the 'Dogs. He was voted Harlem's team MVP after hitting .418 with nine doubles and 31 RBI. He was also terrific on the hill, going 5-3 with an impressive 2.20 ERA.
P - Nolan Belcher (Jr., Greenbrier)
Another year, another state crown for Belcher. The hard-throwing lefty was outstanding once again in 2007. He was 10-1 with a county-best 124 strikeouts (in just 71 innings). He also had a miniscule 0.89 ERA. He was very good at the plate, too. He hit .385 with three triples and 25 RBI.
P - Brandon Cumpton (Sr., Greenbrier)
Cumpton was the senior leader for the Pack in 2007. He led the county in wins, going 11-1 on the mound. He also struck out 91 batters and walked only 15 in 77 innings and posted a 1.27 ERA. He can hit, too, with a .359 batting average this year, five home runs and 29 RBI. He is primed for a terrific career at Georgia Tech.
P - Mike Sanders (Sr., Harlem)
Sanders had a solid senior campaign for Jimmie Lewis' squad. He went 7-1 with an ERA of 2.65. Sanders is not overpowering but can hit spots with anyone in the county. His win total was tied for third.
P - Travis Cerasuolo (Jr., Augusta Christian)
He won a ton of big games late in the season for the Lions. He finished 5-4 but was third in the county in strikeouts with 80 in just 58 innings, and he had a solid 2.41 ERA. He hit .325 with two home runs and 25 RBI.
C - Russ Winter (Sr., Greenbrier)
IF - Kevin Millward (Jr., Evans)
IF - Mike Leverett (Jr., Harlem)
IF - Zach Lawson (Sr., Lakeside)
IF - Damien Lucree (Sr., Greenbrier)
IF - Spencer Morgan (Sr., Augusta Prep)
OF - Patrick McGowan (Jr., Greenbrier)
OF - John Arena (Sr., Lakeside)
OF - Brandon McCladdie (So., Evans)
P - Phillip Summers (So., Harlem)
P - Kyle Golden (Sr., Evans)
P - Matt Zelgewicz (Sr., Lakeside)
Augusta Christian: Johnny Whitaker, William Banks, Will Nelson, Micah Herriman, Austin Crabill. Augusta Prep: Joseph Hall, Brad King. Evans: Brandon Dominy, Robbie Bryant, Jeff Rice, Pat Husbands. Greenbrier: Ryan Cato, Adam King, Nick Page, Nick Richards. Harlem: Alex Hintz, Kyle Knight, Steven Waters, Carlos Beard, Mike Gram. Lakeside: Chaston Weaver, Brad Mikec, Tanner Hall, Chris Burns.
Coach of the Year: (Tie)
Rodney Holder (Greenbrier)
Craig Johnson (Augusta Christian)
OK, I wimped out on this decision, but this was a very tough call. Holder led the 'Pack to the Class AAAA state title in his first season despite losing six terrific starters off the 2006 team. After a 2-4 start, Holder guided Greenbrier to 29 consecutive wins.
Johnson had to replace 11 seniors from Augusta Christian's 2006 state championship team. He still led the Lions to a third crown in a row.
They went to college together at Georgia College and State University and are good friends, so hopefully they will let me slide on not being able to pick just one coach of the year.
Hitter of the Year: Josh Whitaker (Augusta Christian)
While most selections are difficult each year, this one was easy. Whitaker led the county in home runs (10), RBI (53), total bases (92), triples (5) and runs scored (48). He also had nine doubles and walked 27 times. He finished his incredible time at Augusta Christian with a career batting average of .478 with 27 home runs and 144 RBI. He also has the three state baseball titles. In his final two seasons, he blasted 20 home runs and drove in 97 runs in just 162 at bats. He's looking at a big career at Kennesaw State.
Pitcher of the Year: Brandon Cumpton (Greenbrier)
Cumpton was the Region 3-AAAA Player of the Year in 2007. He led the 'Pack in wins, going 11-1 on the mound while also leading them at the plate with five home runs and 29 RBI. He had a 1.27 ERA and struck out 91 batters in 77 innings. Over his final two seasons, he finished 25-2 on the mound with a 1.54 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 128 innings. He also hit .369 with nine home runs and 69 RBI over that span. I would be shocked if he does not get a lot of innings next season at Georgia Tech.
Player of the Year: Nolan Belcher (Greenbrier)
I am running out of adjectives to praise this kid. He was simply untouchable in the postseason. His state playoff numbers are almost unbelievable. He went 5-0 with five complete games and 58 strikeouts in 31 innings. Wow! For the season, he was 10-1 with a county-best 124 strikeouts in just 71 innings. He also had a 0.89 ERA and allowed only 32 hits all season. At the plate, he hit in the two-hole and was a great table setter, hitting .385 with a home run, three triples and 25 RBI. For his career on the mound, Belcher is 35-1 with 374 strike outs in just 209 innings pitched with earned run averages of 0.13, 0.73, and 0.89. He will go down as the best pitcher to ever toe the rubber in Columbia County.
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