arnold

Andrew Arnold is Statesboro bound.

Arnold, a senior pitcher on the North Oconee High School baseball team, accepted a scholarship from the Georgia Southern baseball team. He officially signed to join the Eagles during a scholarship ceremony held in December.

The southpaw hurler has worked for years to reach that point in his career. When it came time to celebrate, Arnold was not alone.

Several North Oconee baseball players all signed during the same ceremony. Arnold also had his family and friends by his side for the event.

After taking in the moment, Arnold said it was a special experience having all of those people gathered for the celebration.

“I feel accomplished, especially with all my teammates doing the same thing as me,” Arnold said. “Our work is already done and we're going there to the next step. That's a big accomplishment for all of us.”

By signing to join the Eagles, Arnold achieved a longtime dream.

Arnold has played baseball since he was a young child. He said he had aspirations of a long baseball career even back then.

“It's been a goal ever since I touched a baseball when I was 3,” Arnold said. “I want to keep going, too. It's always been my goal.”

Arnold reached this point after a strong junior season with the Titans.

He joined the program ahead of the 2021 campaign. Titans head coach Jay Lasley said that one of Arnold’s earliest practices proved worrisome.

Arnold pitched his first intersquad scrimmage one day last spring and had poor results.

Lasley said that Arnold “got lit up” by the Titan batters that day. Though Lasley sensed that the newcomer Arnold was a bit shell-shocked, he also said that Arnold used that experience as motivation to get better.

“After it was over, there was a look on his face like, 'Oh, these guys are serious here,’” Lasley said. “That's probably the worst outing I've seen [Arnold] have in the year that he's been with us because, from that point on, all he did was step on the mound for us and dominate.”

After settling in with the program, Arnold found much greater success.

He became a staple in their pitching rotation and contributed to a lengthy playoff run. That included a clutch outing against Troup County during which play was stopped for an hour due to lighting issues and Arnold returned to the mound despite the delay.

Because of his improvements, Arnold caught the eyes of several scouts.

He received an offer from UT Martin but, ultimately, Arnold felt that Georgia Southern was “definitely my best bet.”

Part of that was because the coaches reminded Arnold of Lasley as well as North Oconee pitching coach Tom Dimitroff.

“It was a beautiful campus,” Arnold said. “My brother went there, so I already kind of knew the inside. Once I met the coaches, they just reminded me of Coach Lasley, Coach Dimitroff, all my coaches here, just that fatherhood (feel). You know they're gonna be there for you. That's what I really wanted in college and Georgia Southern represented that perfectly.”

Arnold said he is undecided on an intended major.

He knows exactly what he wants to do on the field, however.

“I really just want to perfect mechanics and see what they want me to do, see where I can fit best with their lineup,” Arnold said. “It might be different from here. So, whatever I can do to support their team and make them better, I'm ready for that.”

Arnold is looking forward to his time with the Eagles.

He believes he can contribute to their success much like he’s done at North Oconee.

But Arnold also has his sights set beyond college.

Arnold said he will approach his college career hoping it will lead him to the professional ranks.

“I'm feeling that I'm not done yet,” Arnold said. “I feel like I can still do more, still get better. There's always gonna be a next level and that's my goal is to just work toward that. I'm not done working.”

Speaking of “not done yet,” that appears to be the mindset of all Titan players as they approach the 2021 season.

North Oconee has two-straight Final Four appearances under its belt but the Titans are aiming for a state title this season.

Arnold believes he and his teammates have what it takes to get there.

“This is probably the most powerhouse baseball team, other than last year, that we've ever had,” he said. “I'm feeling really confident about this year. We've got a lot of great guys. I think we've got a shot for it all.”

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