This summer, Brycen Jones was pitching in a game for the East Cobb Astros during the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association Championship at LakePoint. With multiple college coaches in attendance, Jones had a strong outing, allowing no hits through four innings and finishing the game with five strikeouts and a win.
With that performance, along with several others on the travel ball circuit, Jones drew plenty of attention.
On Monday, Jones turned his pitching talents into a scholarship and signed to play baseball for Georgia Southern during a ceremony at Cartersville High.
“It feels amazing. I always grew up wanting to play D-I baseball. It feels like a dream come true,” Jones said of signing. “[My recruitment began] this summer in a big tournament called the WWBA. It’s where all the travel ball teams come down to play at LakePoint and East Cobb. There was one game I pitched, it was the summer right around 7 o’clock. My coaches sent out my information to college coaches, and they came and watched me pitch.
“I threw six innings. Going into the fifth, I had a no-hitter going, topping out at 90 [mph] and spinning my curveball a little bit. I was doing pretty well. I shut them out, and we ended up winning, 4-1. I had five strikeouts and [allowed] two hits. ... And then after that tournament, I just started getting heavily recruited this summer.”
Georgia Southern is a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The program has made two College World Series appearances and has appeared in 13 NCAA regionals, including in 2014 when Cartersville High graduate Sam Howard was the ace of the pitching staff. Jones is currently a senior at Cartersville High, and said he had conversations about Georgia Southern with Howard, who is now pitching in the Colorado Rockies organization.
“Sam Howard, ... he just guided me through it and told me how they were,” Jones said of his college decision. “I had multiple offers, including Tennessee, Georgia and I had Clemson. But I went down [to Georgia Southern], I just felt like they could develop me to be the best as a person and a baseball player as a whole — just their coaching staff and their tradition through the years of winning and their accomplishments.”
Jones played 2 1/2 seasons with the Cartersville baseball program and contributed as a pitcher and outfielder last year before transferring to Excel. He is now back at Cartersville High, but has not been ruled eligible by the GHSA. Jones said he is still appealing the decision and hopes to be ruled eligible to play this season.
Jones, a 6-foot tall, right-handed pitcher, said he throws a fastball, curveball, two-seam fastball and changeup. This summer, he was named to several Perfect Game all-tournament teams. He allowed just two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings in the 2015 WWBA Championship this summer with 11 strikeouts. He pitched four shutout innings, allowing just one hit with five strikeouts in the Perfect Game Southeast Qualifier in October. He also was selected to the East Cobb Invitational All-Tournament team when he threw five innings, allowed one earned run and struck out four in a win.
“He has a very live fastball in the 90 range — 90, 91 — along with a good breaking pitch. He offsets that pretty well,” Jones’ travel ball coach for two years, Dennis Yancey, said. “He had come to try out for me, and right away, I recognized how hard he worked, his passion for the game. Besides that, he was a talented ballplayer. He could play multiple positions on the field.”
Jones played some third base and outfield, but eventually settled in as a pitcher.
“It was funny, up until this summer, I was a utility player, never really focused on pitching,” Jones said. “I came to East Cobb the fall of my sophomore year. The coach over there, Gary Baldwin, he saw my career in pitching because I’ve always had a good arm, but never really focused on it. He said, ‘Look, Brycen, you need to focus on this. I think that’s where your future’s going to be later on.’ I started doing that and started getting recruited heavily, and that really helped me a lot.”
As of now, Jones is preparing for his future at Georgia Southern and has his goals in place for when he gets to Statesboro, including majoring in criminal justice.
“I hope to get there and they develop me as a pitcher, just keep working and not get caught up in the whole party situation,” he said. “After my junior year, I’ll look to get drafted and carry on my career.”