Houston County High had five of its baseball players sign college scholarships recently at the school.
In what Head Coach Jason Brett said he believed was the biggest Bears’ baseball signing class – Brett himself will stepping down to take the assistant principal job – Jackson Jones, Connor Martin, Dillon Toms, Logan Morris and Chandler Ring all inked letters of intent.
Jones is headed to Covenant College in North Georgia. Martin will be continuing his playing/education at Wilson College in Pennsylvania. Toms is destined to be a Lee College Rebel in Texas and Morris and Ring will be teammates at East Georgia College.
Jones is a four-year player. He performed dual roles, Brett said, at first base and pitcher. He finished the year hitting .268, with 11 runs batted in. He also had a 1.65 earned run average and was recipient of the Bears award.
“We don’t give a MVP (most valuable player),” Brett said, adding he was put into some “tough situations” and excelled in them all. “The Bears award to me is kind of what Houston County baseball is all about. He does it in classroom. (He said of all that their GPAs were ‘through the roof’.) He does it on the field. He does it in the community. He’s just an all-around 100 percent great young man.”
Martin hit .269 this past season – one in which Houston County finished 27-10 and made it to the Elite Eight before being eliminated by Pope, which went on to win the state championship. He had eight RBIs and was an Honorable Mention on the All-Region 1-AAAAAA team.
“His work ethic is second to none,” Brett said. “Connor is guy … (for example) we’re doing drills last year where you get five ground balls, move to next station and so forth. (And) he takes a ground ball and I think it ended up hitting him in the nose or ear. Regardless, there’s some blood and I’m like, ‘Get off the field Connor’ and he’s like, ‘No, I’m going to do it coach’ and kept on.
“He’s just a testament about how you’re supposed to play the game. I always talk about attitude and effort and he embodies that. He plays with a good attitude and his effort is second to none.”
He was also converted from a middle infielder to third base, Brett added, a switch “he never once complained (about). He just kept grinding and working hard. And it was pretty much, ‘Coach, any way I can get on the field.’ And there’s a lot to be said about that kind of kid in your program. You can win a lot of games having those kind of kids around.”
Toms on the other hand, hit .253 with 14 RBIs. He was also an Honorable Mention for the All-Region 1-AAAAAA team.
Brett said of this “coach on the field”: “In 2016 we won a state championship. And our catcher goes down. He starts cramping or his back starts hurting. And so Dillon is our backup, and we put him in.
“And the first inning was rough. It was rough. We had a couple of passed balls. It was shaky and I remember him coming off the field and we had a few words. And I promise you, if that young man doesn’t step up, we don’t win that ring. And I can say that about a couple of these guys, but Dillon stepped in and performed admirably.”
Morris’ story was similar. In 2016, Brett said, the player the Bears had at shortstop was struggling. Logan, Brett said, was just happy to be on the team at the time – let alone be on the field – “and all of a sudden he gets thrust into that position,” Brett said. He in turn responded, he continued, by hitting the ball well and “kind of taking over that position. The growth I’ve seen from that young man from that time to now is amazing. We’ve had many talks about (things like), as a shortstop you’re going to make errors and things are not going to go your way. And that gets difficult. Especially for a perfectionist. It’s difficult to swallow that sometimes. ‘I’m going to make mistakes but it’s how I react afterward that’s important.’ And in that, I’m extremely proud for Logan. Because he’s made that mature jump. He understands what it takes to play shortstop and he also grew as a hitter as well.”
Proof of the latter came in the fact he hit .333 with two homeruns – “big” homeruns to boot, Brett said – drove in 27 and scored 32 times. He was also named All-Region 1-AAAAAA.
Ring fit the same mold. Brett told of how the team was playing Columbus at state in 2016 and how, because the team had some pretty good arms that year, Ring hadn’t seen much playing time; he was also a sophomore at the time. Yet, the Bears got into extra innings and with the best bat at the plate, Brett believed, who gets the call?
“Again, you don’t win a state championship if he doesn’t step up,” Brett said – he obviously does. “From that point on, as a pitcher, as a hitter, the growth was outstanding.”
Evidence for him came in the fact he was 8-0 this past season. In fact, he beat Pope to force a game three. He finished with a 1.63 ERA, with 89 strikeouts in 60 innings. He also hit .337 with 21 RBIs and was named to the All-Region 1-AAAAAA team.
“The best way I can characterize him,” Brett said. “He’s a bulldog. When you give him the baseball, you know he’s going to compete. You know he’s going to fight.”