The last two weeks the Oconee County/Athens area has been on display nationwide. Not for it’s football. With two four-star and nationally recruited quarterbacks in town and the University of Georgia’s football presence looming in all of its glory, one would think the area would be football-crazed.
The last few weeks has highlighted our small area’s baseball talent. In the 65-team NCAA tournament, there were eight players that once played in the Oconee County area in the last 5 years. This fact escaped me (as many do) as I knew there was talent here locally, but it didn’t occur to me the staggering amount of players that were playing for college baseball’s highest team-prize.
At Coastal Carolina Oconee County High School alum Bobby Holmes, only 2 years removed from winning the College World Series, returned from injury to help the Chanticleers to the regionals where they fell to Georgia Tech.
At UGA, three former Oconeeians resided on the Bulldogs’ roster when they fell to Florida State in the regionals. Former Westminster Christian Academy star C.J. Smith finished the season injured but played a big role throughout the season.
OCHS alums Connor Tate and Cole Tate both joined Smith on the Bulldogs’ roster. Fellow OCHS alum Brooks Crawford made his final appearance in a Tigers’ uniform as they were beaten by Jacksonville State in the regionals.
North Oconee High School alum Josh Farmer played for Mercer this season. The Bears were placed in the Athens Regional and were beaten by Florida Atlantic to bring their 2019 season to a close. Athens Academy alum Jack White plays for the Omaha bound Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines defeated top-ranked UCLA on Sunday night.
NOHS alum Kumar Rocker captured the nation’s attention with his performance Saturday. Rocker helped Vanderbilt force a game three with a 19-strikeout no hitter on Saturday night. Looking at the list of names, I can remember thinking about how good each of them were when they were high schoolers with the exception of Crawford and Holmes, who both predate my time here at The Oconee Enterprise.
The rest, I remember vividly dominating games and making my job easier by helping games breeze quickly along with their dominance. There were games at WCA in which Smith pitched five hitless innings and drove in eight runs.
In an hour the game was done. I love baseball, but deadlines make things complicated. Rocker was the same. He’d go out and draw ohs’ and ahs from the crowd when they’d peak up at the radar that lit up as he pounded the catcher’s glove with a 98 mile per hour fastball. He also carried a bit of a caravan to the ballpark as the Major League Baseball scouts packed the spaces behind home plate where ever Rocker pitched. The whispers were always fun. They spoke of whether of not he’d even go to college.
It made has the sport fun here in this county. The teams are always competitive and I think we’re finding out just how special some of the players we all see 25-30 times a year are.
The wave won’t stop and I don’t think it will for a long long time.
Please say that last part in Elton John’s voice.
Jeremy Johnson is the sports editor for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.