Hitting in the No. 9 spot on a typical high-school baseball starting lineup is often a task reserved for the team's weakest starter. At Greenbrier High School, it's a badge of honor.
Just ask Rafael Parks, the No. 9 hitter for the 2006 Greenbrier state championship squad. Parks hit at the bottom of the lineup in almost every Wolfpack game but was drafted by the Houston Astros at the end of the season.
Then there's Greenbrier's 2007 No. 9 hitter - Damien Lucree.
"When you're on the No. 1 team in the state, it doesn't matter where you bat," Lucree said. "I knew I had to be just like another lead-off hitter."
Lucree, like Parks, was at the bottom of the lineup for a state championship Greenbrier team. Also like Parks, Lucree will play baseball at a higher level next spring.
On July 2, the Wolfpack starting shortstop signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Georgia Perimeter College in Covington, Ga.
However, instead of the shortstop position, Lucree will serve as a pitcher for the junior college Jaguars.
"He came to us as a shortstop, but he mentioned he pitched, too," Georgia Perimeter baseball coach Danny Blue said. "We don't see many guys who can bring it up to 89 (mph) like he did. We're pretty excited about him as a pitcher."
Lucree's pitching skills were an untapped talent at Greenbrier. On a team with both Brandon Cumpton (11-1, 1.27 ERA, 91 strikeouts), Nolan Belcher (10-1, 0.89 ERA, 124 strikeouts) and plenty of backup power, Lucree's arm was better suited at shortstop.
He was a regular starter in the middle of the infield but always found himself at the No. 9 spot in the batting order. A .154 batting average in the regular season kept him there.
Instead of remaining in the "easy out" stereotype typically associated with the No. 9 spot, Lucree exploded in the postseason. He hit better than any other Wolfpack player with a .700 batting average in the state playoffs. By the end of Greenbrier's state title run, Lucree had almost doubled his batting average to .306.
"He was our secret weapon," Greenbrier baseball coach Rodney Holder said.
Lucree said he was just happy to finally contribute at the plate.
"I'd have to say (Greenbrier assistant) coach (Tony) McCladdie helped me the most with my bat," he said. "He helped me keep my hands out and got me to stay back and hit to the opposite field."
Blue said Lucree will still get a chance to show off his bat during summer and fall workouts, but the Greenbrier graduate will mainly contribute on the mound.
Although Lucree said he barely worked on his pitching at all during the 2007 season, he's fine with taking the mound in college.
"I didn't work on pitching hardly at all this year, but I think just playing shortstop made my arm stronger," he said. "When I get up to the mound I feel so much more confident."
"I like pitching. I've always been a pitcher before this year," he said. "I just took off a year to play another position."
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