High school baseball is finally back in the Chattahoochee Valley. With the local teams starting their seasons, there’s no better time to look at the area’s top players.
Here is the 2018 Dandy Dozen baseball squad:
Garrett Brown, pitcher, Manchester - Brown was a man on a mission on the mound for the Blue Devils in 2017, throwing 40.1 innings, striking out 55 and posting a 2.43 ERA. His big arm — his fastball has been clocked at 89 mph — helped Brown sign with Georgia in November.
Waggener Davidson, pitcher/third baseman, Northside - Davidson led the way for Northside at the plate and on the rubber last season, posting a team-high batting average (.355), innings pitched (61.1), wins (6) and strikeouts (46). Northside lost some talent from 2017, but Davidson’s return should keep the Patriots in the hunt.
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Hunter Donaldson, second baseman, Russell County - Donaldson was a freshman in 2017, but that didn’t stop him from putting up a .354 batting average with 40 hits and 39 RBIs. Colleges like Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama are already interested in Donaldson, and it isn’t hard to see why.
Hunter Duke, third baseman, Hardaway - Duke was an important piece in Hardaway’s run to the Class 4A quarterfinals last spring, as he batted .317 with 32 hits, 3 home runs and 21 RBIs. Hardaway graduated one of its best hitters in Mykel Page, and Duke is a good candidate to replace his production.
Slade Gorman, catcher/outfielder, Central - Gorman got hit after hit in his junior season — 43 to be exact — on his way to a .377 batting average with 5 home runs and 22 RBIs. Gorman is one of only four returning starters for Central this season, but there’s little reason to doubt he will replicate his past success. Gorman has committed to play baseball at CVCC.
Trent Grantham, pitcher/first baseman, Columbus - Grantham was Columbus’ go-to pitcher in 2017, a season in which he threw 76.1 innings, posted a 2.20 ERA and struck out 62 batters. Grantham did just as well with a bat in his hand, hitting .290 with 29 hits and 12 RBIs. The 6-foot-5 Grantham has received some interest from some SEC schools, including Georgia and Ole Miss.
John Kropaczewski pitcher/second baseman/third baseman, Jordan - No matter where Kropaczewski was on the diamond last season, he produced. Along with hitting the first outside-the-park home run at Jordan in years, he managed a .419 batting average with 36 hits, 3 home runs and 35 RBIs and was named the All-Bi-City 1A-3A Player of the Year.
Jonathan Manibusan, pitcher/second baseman/right fielder, Hardaway - Like several players in this year’s Dandy Dozen, Manibusan came through for his team in a number of ways. Along with his team-high .355 batting average, Manibusan was effective on the mound, throwing 61.1 innings, striking out 69 batters and putting up a 1.71 ERA. Manibusan looks to be Hardaway’s top starter, and his play will likely go a long way in the Hawks’ push for another strong season.
Alex Marquand, catcher, Shaw - Shaw was in the thick of the region race last spring, and Marquand was a big reason why. He was one of the hardest outs in Columbus in a junior year in which he hit .425 with 34 hits, 1 home run and 21 RBIs. Marquand has committed to Georgia Highlands.
Hunter Milam, pitcher, Russell County - Almost no one could touch Milam on the mound in 2017, as the lefty struck out 114 batters and posted a 1.13 ERA in 68 innings. His efforts were huge for a young team that made the first round of the Class 6A playoffs and earned him All-Bi-City 4A-7A Pitcher of the Year honors. Milam, whose fastball has touched 90 mph, has committed to Memphis.
Andrew Tillery, pitcher, Glenwood - Tillery is a new face to the Glenwood program, having transferred from Shaw. In his junior year, Tillery stood out with the Raiders despite injuries, striking out 43 hitters and compiling a team-low 1.87 ERA. Tillery has signed to play at N.C. State.
Robbie Tillman, center fielder, Columbus - Down the stretch of the 2017 season, Tillman repeatedly delivered the big hit the Blue Devils needed. Tillman had a .324 batting average as a sophomore to go with 34 hits, 19 RBIs and a team-high 11 stolen bases. Tillman has already gotten looks from schools such as Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. When you watch him in action, there’s little question why.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports