Entering the summer, Heath Durand didn't think Division I baseball was a possibility for him.
But the Lakeside right-hander made it a reality Nov. 17 when he signed with Georgia Southern alongside teammate Kody Belcher, who will play at Kennesaw State.
"It takes the weight off my shoulders," Belcher said. "We thought about this for a while."
Both Durand and his mother, Michelle, said his involvement with Best 9 Baseball, based out of the Central Savannah River Area, at tournaments this past summer gave him an opportunity to grab more attention.
He also played in Jupiter, Fla., in the World Wood Bat Championship for the Ohio Warhawks in October, though Durand's mother said this past summer was the biggest help in getting schools to show interest.
Durand's mother said with such a great collection of Lakeside players last season, her son probably didn't receive as much notice as others did. That's why the summer was crucial.
The pitcher also got looks from schools, including Columbus State, Kennesaw State and USC Aiken before he elected to sign with Georgia Southern.
Durand said he has wanted to play baseball for the Eagles since he first got to high school. The Southern Conference team finished its 2010 season at 34-24.
Belcher, who roams center field for the Panthers, heads to an Atlantic Sun Conference school where he thinks he has an opportunity to earn some solid playing time his freshman season.
The Owls went 23-32 in 2009 and typically play the Eagles once each year.
Belcher said he also had interest in Georgia Southern, Mercer and South Carolina.
Before they take their talents to Georgia's collegiate level, the two have one more season at Lakeside, where the Panthers reached the Class AAAA championship series this past season. Lakeside coach T.J. Davis said the team will depend on Belcher and Durand for another successful season.
After this final Lakeside season and school year, Durand gets to follow his sister in attending Georgia Southern.
He said joining her at school factored into his decision.
"She'll definitely help me around the campus," he said.
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