Clayton Miller had a decision to make this summer.
The Lakeside High School senior could continue to play middle infield, where he'd probably spend his final season as a backup. Or he could move.
"I knew the plate was open after (former Panthers catcher) Mike Gram left, and our other catcher is hurt," Miller said. "I figured I'd jump in there and get better at it."
The decision landed Miller a scholarship offer from Armstrong Atlantic State University, which saw him catch during a July showcase. He was one of three Lakeside players who were recognized last week for their college decisions.
Jeffrey Stoner, a pitcher and first baseman, signed with Francis Marion. Zach Hayden, a pitcher and right fielder, plans to sign with Middle Georgia during January's junior college period.
Miller's father caught at Wofford College and Newberry and later played in the Minnesota Twins organization. When Clayton Miller decided to catch, he used the right teacher.
His dad taught him the proper stance, how to block balls and, most importantly, how to glove them. The instruction led to Miller's quick rise.
He caught for the Panthers during summer league and expects to start behind the plate during the spring.
"I feel proud of myself and everybody who's helped me along the way," Miller said. "It's very quick how all this happened."
Stoner visited Francis Marion for a showcase in November. The Florence, S.C., school made an offer to Stoner the same day.
He said the Patriots are rebounding from the departure of a large senior class and that he expects to play immediately.
"I want to play as much as I can and do good for the team so we can win championships," Stoner said.
The right-hander will be one of the Panthers' top starters in the spring when not playing first. He, along with his coach and college-bound teammates, said Lakeside could finish better than it did a season ago, when it reached the Class AAAA quarterfinals.
"We got nine good starters that will play," Stoner said. "Last year, we had people on the bench who would have started other places. I think we'll do as good if not better than last year."
Hayden will wait to make his college decision official. He said he chose Middle Georgia because of its history of having players drafted.
The hard-throwing right-hander, who consistently clocks in the low 90s on the speed gun, drew eyes when he played in an Atlanta showcase for the top 100 high school players in Georgia. Hayden said he received draft forms from the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Davis said Hayden's pitching role as a closer would increase this season for the Panthers. As a junior, Hayden used his strong arm as a right-fielder and also drew praise at the plate.
"He surprised a lot of people with how well he did hit the ball," Davis said. "Hopefully, that will continue."
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