Baseball took center stage in the state on Tuesday as both Georgia and Georgia Tech received signed letters-of-intent from major prospects during the early signing period.
The Yellow Jackets won out in a battle over Tatnall Square Academy baseball and football star DeAndre Smelter. Smelter is a 6-2, 205-pound right-handed pitcher with a 90-plus-mile-and-hour fastball. Obviously he is expected to be high draft pick in next June’s Amateur Baseball Draft.
“No matter what happens (with the draft), I know I have a home at Georgia Tech,” Smelter told the Macon Telegraph. “You can do anything in life with a degree from Georgia Tech.”
Smelter, the Telegraph’s 2008 Male Athlete of the Year, gave up football this season to concentrate on baseball.
Georgia also got a football star to play baseball. Conor Welton has quarterbacked undefeated Wesleyan into second round of the GHSA Class A state football playoffs and a state championship last year. But he signed a baseball scholarship with the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-, 190-pound senior is a left-handed hitting outfielder who has also helped the Wolves win two baseball state championships. He is the son of former Georgia football player Chris Welton, who played on the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship team.
“Georgia is one of the top baseball programs in the country, and my goal is to win a national championship as my father did in football,” Welton said.
The crowned jewel of the Bulldogs’ baseball recruiting class is pitcher Drew Cisco of Mt. Pleasant, S.C. The 6-foot-2 right-hander is ranked among the top 25 high school draft prospects in the country by Baseball America. He has posted a 20-6 record and 1.61 ERA with233 strikeouts in 169.3 innings pitched in three seasons at Wando High.
“Drew is one of the biggest highlights of this recruiting class, and he’s going to be a part of our rotation very early in his career,” Georgia baseball coach Dave Perno said.
Other Georgia baseball signees include:
- Ralston Cash, a 6-3, 205-pound right-hander from Cornelia. He posted a 9-0 record with a 0.97 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 57.2 innings for the Lakeview Academy Lions and also batted .466 with nine home runs and 48 RBI as the cleanup hitter.
- Jeff Shields, a 6-3, 207-pound right-hander from Lawrenceville. Shields is a sophomore at Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College after a standout prep career at Central Gwinnett. He went 2-1 with five saves and a 5.50 ERA in 18 innings pitched and batted .306-3-29 in 46 games overall to help the Pirates to a 39-19 record.
- Caleb Bryson, a 6-1, 195-pound utility player, is a three-sport standout for Thomas County Central High School. As a junior, he batted .476 with a team-high 12 home runs and 42 RBI while playing third base, first base, left field and catcher.
- James Garner, a 5-11, 150-pound left-handed pitcher from Loganville. As a junior Garner went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched.
- Jonathan Hester, a 6-3, 195-pound right-handed hitter from Savannah, plays third base at Middle Georgia College. He batted .330 with 12 home runs as MGC advanced to the Junior College World Series.
Other Tech baseball signings:
- Chevez Clarke, a 6-foot, 185-pound outfielder from Marietta, is a switch-hitter that batted .300 last year and is considered the No. 5 recruit in Georgia.
- Mott Hyde, 6-foot-, 180 from Resaca (Calhoun High), is considered one of the best middle infielders in the country. He it .550 with 20 home runs, 10 doubles and 57 RBI in 2009.
- Daniel Palka, a 6-2, 190-pound left-handed pitcher and outfielder from Lyman, S.C., is rated the No. 2 recruit in South Carolina.
- Alex Lavisky is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound catcher from Cleveland, Ohio, who hit .481 as a junior.
- Chris Triplett is a 5-11, 178-pound middle infielder from Sandy Creek High and the rated the No. 17 player in Georgia.
MIF | S/R | 5-11 | 178 | Fayetteville, Ga. (Sandy Creek)
- Chase Butler, a 6-foot, 185-pound third baseman from Rome, batted .486 with eight home runs and 35 RBI and was 6-0 with a 0.38 ERA for Darlington.
- Matthew Grimes is a powerful 6-foot-5, 185-pound right-hander from Mill Creek High in Hoschton.
- Dusty Isaacs, a 6-1, 190-pound right-hander from Lebanon, Ohio, struck out 61 batters in 41 innings and hit .457 at the plate.
- Alexander Cruz, a 6-2, 187-pound middle infielder from Woodstock, is the third baseball player to join Tech from Blessed Trinity in Roswell. He joins sophomore Matt Skole and football/baseball commitment Jake Skole.
- Jonathan Roberts is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed pitcher from Fayetteville that is rated the No. 29 recruit in Georgia.
- Paul Kronenfeld, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound outfielder and first baseman, comes to Tech from Greensboro, N.C., where he hit .438 with seven homers and 53 RBI the last two seasons.
OF/1B | L-R | 6-3 | 190 | Greensboro, N.C. (Woodberry Forest (Va.))
- Zane Evans is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound catcher and right-handed pitcher from Roswell and a 2009 Under Armour All-American.
- Kyle Wren, a 6-foot, 165-pound, left-handed outfielder from Peachtree City, is the son of Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren.
- Brad Markey, a 5-10, 170-pound middle infielder and pitcher, comes to Tech from Bel Air, Md.
- Conner Kendrick, a 6-1, 165-pound left-hander from Sharpsburg, had an 11-1 record and 1.68 ERA while leading Northgate High to the Class AAAA state title last year.
- Devin Stanton, a 6-foot lefthander from Lilburn, has won two state titles in baseball and one in football while playing at Wesleyan.
- Will West is a 6-foot-2 left-hander from Tallahassee, Fla., who spent summers playing baseball for the East Cobb Astros.
Other early-period signings:
Georgia signed Nathan Eisenman of Conyers; Melanie Margalis of Clearwater, Fla.; and Christian Riess of New Orleans.
Woodstock High’s Morgan Johnson signed with James Madison.
Lilly Kimbell, a 5-7 native of Vancouver, Wash., signed with Georgia. Kimbell now residesin Texas where she trains and has a combined ranking of No. 3 in the USTA Girls 18s.
Lindsey Bryant of North Forsyth signed with Carson-Newman College. She is a 6-foot outside hitter and led her team with 433 kills.
Four players signed with Georgia Southern: Marvin Baynham, a 6-7 forward from Miami; Tre Bussey, a 6-3 guard from Lithia Springs; Eric Ferguson, a 6-8 forward from Statesboro by way of the Winchendon (Mass.) School; and Sam Mike, a 6-8 forward from Decatur.