Georgia high school baseball teams have begun practicing and the season is just a few weeks away.
While Adairsville senior catcher Lane Griffith is eagerly anticipating the beginning of the Tigers’ 2016 campaign, he also is excited about the 2017 season to follow.
On Tuesday, Griffith made it official what team he will be playing for after he hangs up his Adairsville jersey when he signed to play for West Georgia during a ceremony at Adairsville High.
“I went on a visit. I didn’t really want to go anywhere big or far away. It’s pretty close to home and I liked it,” Griffith said of why he chose West Georgia. “I liked the coaches and I just liked the atmosphere”
“Lane, he’s been a good player for us the last 3 1/2, four years, and as good of a player as he is, he’s a good person,” Adairsville head coach Billy Roper said. “He’s one of those guys that has played with us during the summer, did everything we asked. He didn’t chase it. It came to him. We try to tell them, ‘If you do what you’re supposed to do, play the game and love the game, good things will come out of it.’”
West Georgia, located in Carrollton, is an NCAA Division II program out of the Gulf South Conference. The team went 33-15 last season and advanced deep into the conference tournament. Heading into this season, West Georgia is ranked in the top 30 in one national poll and is ranked in the top 10 in two region polls. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association placed the Wolves eighth in its preseason rankings for the South Region of NCAA Division II on Tuesday. West Georgia was earlier ranked fifth regionally by d2baseballnews.com.
According to Griffith, West Georgia was an easy choice.
“I looked at Jacksonville State a little bit,” Griffith said. “That’s where my dad went to play baseball, but I liked West Georgia a good bit. I went there and I made my decision on my visit.”
Griffith has started each year behind the plate at Adairsville, but his biggest season came in 2015 as a junior while helping Adairsville reach the state playoffs. Griffith, known for his defensive ability and strong throwing arm from behind the plate, hit for a county-leading .417 batting average to go along with a .529 on-base percentage, .493 slugging percentage, two home runs, 21 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
“We always thought he’d be a good hitter, but when you think of Lane Griffith, you think of his defensive prowess behind the plate,” Roper said. “Last year, he emerged as one of our better hitters offensively. That’s just a testament to how hard he works.
“He hit consistently all year long, and we’re going to ask for big things out of him this year.”
Griffith was named to The Daily Tribune News All-County team as a junior, and received one of the biggest honors a high school baseball player in Georgia can receive when he was selected to play for Team Georgia in the Sun Belt Classic in Oklahoma over the summer.
“It was a good experience,” Griffith said of the Sun Belt Classic. “We finished in fourth place, but we beat Texas, which is who won the tournament.”
While Griffith has had an impressive high school career so far, his work in the offseason may have gotten him looked at by West Georgia.
“I go to The YARD in Calhoun to hit. Brad Lofton — he coaches at Southeast Whitfield — he got me the visit to West Georgia. He knows the coach really well,” Griffith said.
Roper said Griffith’s hard work during the season or in the offseason provides an example for the rest of the players in the Adairsville baseball program.
“This kid has been in our [high school] program for all four years. He’s been in our middle school program. So he’s been in our program seven years,” Roper said of Griffith. “So he’s been through both those programs and got a college scholarship. It shows our other guys that, if you put the work in, keep your grades up and things like that, you can use him as an example.”
While preparing for his senior season with the Tigers, Griffith has his goals in place for his college career on and off the diamond.
“I want to be a teacher and a coach,” he said of his goals in college. “[On the field], I just want to go out there and be the best I can be.”