A down year for the Adairsville baseball program still saw the Tigers send three players off to college as seniors Sam Seaman, Chase Powell and Justin Green all made their choices official at a signing ceremony last week.
Seaman, the 2016 DTN Pitcher of the Year, will be a full-time infielder at Gordon State, while pitcher Powell and catcher Green will keep their battery intact at Shorter.
“It’s always nice to see these guys do what you ask and do all the hard work and have a chance to play in college,” Adairsville coach Billy Roper said. “It makes you feel good for them, because their time is through with us but it’s always good to have a chance to go and play college baseball.”
Seaman, after leading Adairsville to the playoffs in 2016 with a run of stellar late-season starts, was asked to contribute on both sides of the ball this year and came through as a two-way star.
On the pitching side, his 50.2 innings pitched and 60 strikeouts led the Tigers, as did his 2.90 ERA among players who pitched more than one inning.
Offensively, the shortstop’s .404 batting average, .504 on base percentage and .638 slugging led all qualified hitters for the Tigers.
“Sam Seaman, you know, he’s been a three-year starter for us,” Roper said. “He’s done some good things offensively, defensively and pitching. This year he had to play a little bit more of the infield and didn’t get to pitch as much as he has, but he’s been there for us for three years.”
A resume like that drew attention from four-year schools, but Seaman wanted to play right away and ended up committing to Gordon State, a junior college program.
“I think that’s the best way to go nowadays, is JUCO, and you play so much, you can play all year and practice with the team all year so you just get better all around,” Seaman said.
Going to a two-year school will give Seaman the opportunity to play his way into a better situation if he excels at Gordon State.
For proof of the opportunities out there for JUCO players, he had to look no further than his former Adairsville teammate Sean McDermott, who went to Cleveland State Community College after his four years as a Tiger. After a strong freshman season, McDermott picked up an offer from Division-I Mercer, where he’ll head to finish out his career after this year.
“I’m real close with Sean and he’s the one that actually told me that JUCO would be the way to go and I looked at it after that,” Seaman said.
The option to both hit and pitch was there for Seaman, who plans to study business, but he’ll focus solely on the offensive side of the ball, likely as a shortstop.
Powell and Green, meanwhile, will be continuing a pitcher-catcher partnership that started even before Little League as they attend Shorter together.
“Me and Chase, we’ve been playing together since T-ball, and he’s always been a pitcher and I’ve always been a catcher, so we have a great personal chemistry when it comes to baseball,” Green said. “So getting to take it to the next level with him and with us being so close baseball-wise, I think it’s going to work out great.”
Powell was the first to commit to the Hawks, choosing Shorter over Georgia Gwinnett and Reinhardt, among others.
The pitcher was second on the team to Seaman this year with an even 3.00 ERA in 25.2 innings, functioning as both a starter and a reliever for the Tigers.
“He was able to eat up a lot of the middle innings for us and have spot starts for us. He pitched big games for us,” Roper said about Powell.
It was a triumphant return to the diamond for Powell, who sat out his junior year and played tennis instead due to personal reasons. The year off was almost a blessing in disguise for the pitcher, who continued to work out and throw by himself, building his arm strength while also saving his arm from the wear and tear of game action.
“I was actually working to get better pitching-wise and over time I was throwing longer, I was throwing harder,” Powell said.
Powell, who’ll also study business, wasn’t sure he was going to Shorter until about two weeks ago, when the university offered him increased scholarship money.
Powell sat down with Shorter coach Frank Suarez and worked out a deal.
That conversation also opened the door for Green to attend Shorter.
The backstop had essentially given up on his plans to play collegiately and was already set to go to Georgia Southern to study nursing.
In fact, he was talking with his family about plans for Southern on April 21 when the phone rang.
It was the Shorter coaching staff, calling to offer him a spot. The Hawks were short a catcher and had picked up Green’s name from his teammate Powell.
“I had that mindset where I was just like well, this is where my career comes to an end and then I get a phone call and I just didn’t know how to feel after the phone call,” Green said. “And then I finally got the letter that I had to sign and that’s when it really hit me that I was going to be able to do that. ... They just said they heard good things about me and that they had an open spot on their roster and they needed a catcher and so I told them I’d take it right away.”
Green took over the full-time catching job this year after splitting time between that position and DH as a backup to Lane Griffith in 2016.
“This year, he was pressed into the starting role at catcher and he had some knee problems early on in the year, so he was battling that, but he was able to come back and give us a solid year behind the plate,” Roper said.
No relationship on a baseball field is more important than the one between pitcher and catcher, and Powell and Green already have that down as they take the next step in their careers.
“If I didn’t talk to coach Suarez and talk to him about the positioning for having a catcher, I don’t think I would have ever got Justin the spot at Shorter, but I’m so glad I did,” Powell said. “It’s a great feeling, having someone I grew up with all my life always behind the plate catching for me.”
Despite the contributions of all three players, the Tigers struggled early this year and never seriously contended for a state playoff spot, but Roper is at least happy that some of his players are getting the opportunity to play in college.
“It’s always good to see the hard work pay off in the end,” Roper said. “What I tell them is, if you come in and work hard and hone your craft, there’s somewhere out there for everybody to play, it’s just a matter of finding it. ... They were able to withstand the tide and hone their skills and everything and fortunately enough there was an opportunity to play college baseball.”