Monday, May 31, 2010

Shoes to be filled... Part 4

This is the 4th and final installment in my “Shoes to be filled…” series, and it includes the final group of players that will be leaving the pinstripes before next fall.  Here's the rest of our shoes to be filled:

Donte Williams, OF/RHP - “D-Train” or “Train”, named because he’s built like a freight train, has been a fixture in our lineup for the last two seasons. After being used further down the order in 2009, Train took over as our full time leadoff hitter after a few short weeks this spring. Not only did he make us proud in this new and vital role, he absolutely shined. No other leadoff man in the league was as versatile in their assault of first base. Donte literally used every weapon imaginable to reach base, and used them all with alarming success. As a hitter, Train hit a cool .383, lifting his career average at CV to a steady .356 mark. He used 20 walks, 22 hit by pitches, and 53 singles to set the table for us this year in addition to a homer and 10 doubles. He was so adept at reaching base that he only failed to do so at least once in a game on two occasions. One of those occasions was a pinch hit at bat, and the other was a game in which he had only 2 plate appearances. Not only that, but he finished the season on a 17 game hitting streak. After reaching base so frequently, it is not surprise that Train also scored an impressive 58 runs in just 47 appearances. He wasn’t too shabby when it came to driving runs in either, driving in 38 runs for the year. It’s easy to forget that Donte was also an outstanding relief pitcher for us during his stint with the Pirates. He threw just 31 innings in his career, but in those innings he struck out 17 batters, walked just 4, and sported a 1-0 record with 2 saves. While putting up these outstanding numbers, Donte was the epitome of self control, always managing to keep an even keel regardless of the situation. You could always count on him to keep his composure in tight spots and to lead by example without having to make a scene or run his mouth. Donte has signed to play at the University of West Alabama this fall.

Heath Peterson, 1B - The first thing you notice when you see Heath walk into a room is that he an absolute monster of a man. After you get to know him, you realize that his stature is probably the least impressive attribute he possesses. Heath is one of the most respectful, polite, and decent young men you’ll ever have the privilege to meet, and despite a fearsome appearance, he’s the first person to offer a helping hand. Oh, by the way, Heath can MASH!! In two years batting in the middle of the Pirate lineup, Heath clobbered 16 home runs, 14 doubles, and drove in 81. I say clobbered because when Heath gets a hold of a pitch he doesn’t just hit it, he destroys it. There are probably a couple balls he hit that are still making their way toward the Gulf of Mexico as I write… Heath hits balls that the defense gets out of the way of… He hits balls that scare small children and make babies cry. Maybe that’s a little overboard, but seriously, the guy has incredible power. By the time he was finished, he sported a pretty good batting average too, hitting a blazing hot .391 in 2010 and .331 for his career. The big guy can run too, he was safe on 13 of 15 steal attempts during his career at CV, and I’d bet more than a few catchers got pretty nervous on every one of his 67 runs scored. To finish the season this year, he homered in 4 straight games while going 8 for 13 and knocking in 6 and scoring 9 down the stretch. All told, he was responsible for creating 148 runs during his two years in the pinstripes. At the time of this writing, Heath has scholarship opportunities on the table, but he has not yet decided what his plans for next season are. As soon as he makes his decision, I will update this portion of my blog.

Bronson Gagner, RHP - At 6’7 260lbs, we called him “Big Daddy”. I’m pretty sure the rest of the league referred to him as “Jeez… Now we have to try to hit THIS guy??” Bronson was as good a starting pitcher as any pitcher to ever come through Chatt Valley, and he was arguably the most consistent hurler in 2010 that we’ve had during my tenure. The big man was great in literally every single appearance he made this season. Even in the 1 loss on his record, he pitched fantastically, keeping hitters off base all day while our offense had a rare off day. By the end of the year, he’d rattled off 8 straight victories, and if it weren’t for a couple of no decisions early in the year, his record could very easily have been even more impressive… Hard to believe when I tell you his record was 9-1. That’s right, 9-1 and his ERA was a tidy 2.69 in the process. Over his 70 and 1/3 innings of work, Big Daddy whiffed 58 opposing hitters and walked just 17. More impressive, only 4 of the walks came in his final 7 starts. Opponents managed a pathetic .243 batting average against him, and just for good measure, he mixed a pair of shutouts. His primary weapon was a fastball that has great 2-seam action and clocks in at 90-94 MPH, and there were several games in career where he literally didn’t need anything else to defeat his opponents. In a game against Wallace-Selma his freshman season, Bronson threw a complete game and only had to use his breaking ball twice. This season against Southern Union, he fired nothing but fastballs until the final frame to claim the win. When pounding heaters wasn’t enough, the big righty used an excellent slider and changeup to keep hitters guessing. With a two year tally of 13-3 with 93 K’s and 1 save, Bronson is easily among the all-time elite pitchers to suit up at Chatt Valley. What makes me more proud to say though, is that he is one of the best men I know… He is exceptional in every aspect of his character, and his worth as a human being dwarfs his tremendous value on the ballfield. Bronson has signed to play at Mercer University next fall, and he is likely to be selected in the June 5th Major League draft.

Tyler Googe, 3B/RHP - One word of advice to pitchers in the Peachbelt Conference next year: If Googe is hot, don’t throw him a strike. When he was on, there has never been a more dangerous hitter to face in the ACCC than Googe. He began the year by blasting 3 homers in a double header victory over Andrew College while driving in 10 runs in just a single afternoon. Against Wallace-Dothan, he literally had opposing players instructing their pitchers not to throw him any more strikes because he hammered 3 bleezies and a double in one game. In that contest he scored 5 runs and drove in 7. That’s right, one guy accounted for 12 runs in ONE game. His cumulative numbers were nothing to shake a stick at, either. For the year his line read .330 with 8 doubles, 9 homers, 39 RBI’s and 25 runs scored, and he did this in just 29 games in the Pirate lineup. The best part is that Tyler always showed up to the ballpark with a smile on his face and something good to say to everyone. He’s the guy you can’t help but like and the first one to bring humor into any conversation. Some people would say that he’s coachable… I’d describe it more as being willing to literally do whatever you ask him to in effort to win. He’s not just willing to listen, he’s completely selfless and is a consummate team-first personality. This has never been more evident in a player than it was in Tyler, who took every move, whether it was to 3rd base, 1st base, on the bump, in the DH slot, or even when he was asked to sit down, without the slightest hesitation, question, or complaint. That’s probably why watching him have so much success was so entertaining. Tyler has signed to play at Columbus State University next fall.

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