Jeffrey Stoner the pitcher is remarkably different from Jeffrey Stoner the teen.
For such a laid-back guy, the recent Lakeside graduate sure does get serious when he steps on the pitching mound.
"When the game time starts, he gets the game face on," Lakeside head coach T.J. Davis said. "You can't make him smile. You can't make him laugh. He's just extremely focused on what he wants to do."
Stoner was zoned in early and often this season. In addition to his significant contributions at the plate, the senior was the workhorse of the Panthers' pitching staff. He went undefeated in the regular season and served as the team's Game 1 starter throughout its run to the Class AAAA state championship series.
For his efforts, Stoner is The Columbia County News-Times' All-County Baseball Player of the Year.
The Game 1 playoff starter has immense pressure on his shoulders, Davis said, but it's a role Stoner relished.
"You've got to go out there and set the tone," Davis said. "He took that role. ... And every team we played, whether he got beat or he beat them, they said, 'He's tough.' "
Stoner finished the season 10-3 with a 2.45 ERA. He threw nine complete games, and his 85w innings pitched was more than double that of the team's next-highest total, 41Q from senior Wil Hogan.
This season, Stoner added a cutter to his pitching arsenal, which includes two fastballs, a curveball and a changeup. As the new pitch developed, he said he could go to the cutter in a tight situation, as he could with any of his other pitches.
"It became pretty effective throughout the season," Stoner said of the cutter, a pitch with movement similar to a slider. "It got better and better, working with (pitching coach Dan) Sneeringer. I could use all my pitches as 'out' pitches, and I think that helped me a lot."
The Panthers' season ended with a state finals appearance. Though Lakeside fell to Marist, the opportunity was something Stoner described as "one of the greatest experiences of my life."
The season started with another memorable moment: Stoner pitched the Panthers to a 9-6 victory over county rival Greenbrier.
"I'd have to say that (start) felt the best," Stoner said of the season opener. "They have a bunch of good players. ... I had to be on my game to get them out."
Stoner is among the slew of Panthers who will play college baseball next season.
After his time with the Panthers and with the Augusta Barons travel team, Stoner will play for Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C., this fall.
"I'm pretty pumped up," Stoner said about the opportunity to pitch and play first base at the collegiate level.
In addition to his pitching prowess, Stoner also made his mark at the plate this season. He led the Panthers in home runs (eight) and RBI (42) while hitting .337.
The surge was somewhat of a surprise for the 6-foot-3 Stoner, who had shown glimpses of power in the past, but had not hit as many home runs.
"He always had some power, but it really came to fruition the beginning part of this year," Davis said. "The first part of this year, I think he had five or six home runs in (a span of) seven or eight games."
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