Former Augusta Christian star Josh Whitaker has had a terrific bounce-back year at Kennesaw State this season. While the Owls have struggled to a 23-32 record, Whitaker has been solid.
Whitaker started 40 games for Kennesaw State as a freshman in 2008, but missed more than half the season a year ago because of injury. While in the lineup, Whitaker was terrific, hitting .379 for the season. So the main goal this year was to stay healthy.
The former South Carolina Independent Schools Association State Player of the Year has done much more than that. Whitaker has enjoyed an outstanding season. He has started 52 of Kennesaw's 55 games and is among the team leaders in virtually every offensive category.
Whitaker is second on the team in batting, hitting at a .336 clip. He is also second in runs scored with 48, and is among the top three on the squad in home runs (6), doubles (13) and stolen bases (6), and has driven in 31 runs as well. He has played four different defensive positions during his three seasons at Kennesaw and has proven he can handle any defensive job. This season he has made only one error in 107 chances.
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Whitaker already has a pro body, and likely will be drafted in June's amateur baseball draft.
Whitaker is not the only area product getting a look from scouts. This year's draft could be the biggest in Columbia County history. In addition to Whitaker, here are a few other players who could be drafted.
Jeff Rowland (Greenbrier, Georgia Tech): Selected last year in the 21st round by Cleveland as a draft eligible sophomore, Rowland could go in the top 10 rounds this year.
Brandon Cumpton (Greenbrier, Georgia Tech): Like Rowland, he will likely go among the top 10 rounds next month.
Nolan Belcher (Greenbrier, South Carolina): Belcher is a draft-eligible sophomore. Belcher's size has always been a question mark for scouts, but the kid can flat-out pitch. If he is not picked this year, he should be primed for a big junior campaign for the Gamecocks. He likely would return to USC even if he is taken late in the draft.
Shawn Ward (Evans, Georgia College and State): Drafted out of high school in 2006 in the 46th round by Seattle, Ward has come out of nowhere to put himself back in the draft talk, thanks to a monster junior season at GCSU.
Zach Hayden (Lakeside): Limited innings on the mound this season might have hurt his chances to be drafted, but scouts will certainly follow him in college if he is not picked. You just can't teach someone to throw 92 mph.
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