Edwards and his Central Alabama baseball team won the National Junior College Athletic Association title Saturday night in Grand Junction, Colo., by a score of 7-3 over Palm Beach State, thanks to a very strong postseason from Edwards.
“It's awesome. A dream come true,” Edwards said.
Edwards went 5 for 12 in his team’s last three wins. He had four RBI’s, including a home run, while also taking three walks during that span. His batting average was .295 in the regular season with a .424 on-base percentage.
Edwards leaves Central Alabama on top and will come back home to Georgia next season to play for North Georgia, a Division II team in the Peach Belt Conference.
However, the road was bumpy for the Adairsville native.
After a stellar career at Adairsville High School, Edwards attended Northwest-Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals, Ala. After one season at Northwest-Shoals, Edwards injured his elbow which required Tommy John surgery.
“It’s a great story for that young man. A lot of people don’t know, he had arm problems and was kind of in the dumps about it,” Edwards’ former coach at Adairsville Eric Bishop said. “The struggles that young man went through, to be in that position, shows a lot about him.”
To make matters even more difficult, the state of Alabama cut Northwest-Shoals’ baseball program.
“I didn’t have anywhere to play,” Edwards said. “My coach at Shoals knew [Central Alabama coach Wynn Fletcher] pretty well and asked if there was a spot open and Fletcher said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take him.’”
Coach Fletcher clearly made the right move as Edwards was critical to Central Alabama’s success the past two seasons.
Edwards hit .325 with a .411 on-base percentage in 2012, but became especially hot during the recent postseason.
The right fielder credits his coaching staff for his improved hitting during the playoffs.
“The numbers don't really show the adjustment I made at the plate,” Edwards said. “The first game, I didn't really hit the ball well at all and I got with my hitting coach. I just made a few little adjustments to start keying in on the ball. As a hitter, you're going to get into little slumps, but I'm just fortunate enough to have good coaches that helped me make those adjustments to get hot at the right time.”
Edwards was on such a hot streak in the playoffs that, the game before playing against Cochise College, he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded to force in a run in the ninth inning. Central Alabama rallied from a four-run deficit in the ninth just to bring the game into extra innings. Central Alabama would then complete the comeback with a walk-off win in the 11th inning.
“I wasn't surprised,” Edwards said about his team’s improbable comeback and path to the championship. “We have a team full of fighters. We don't quit. We don't bow down to anybody. We just go out there and fight and scrap and luckily the hits came and we came out with a championship.”
Bishop could have predicted Edwards’ performance at such a high stage.
“He was such a well-rounded, complete baseball player,” Bishop said of his former player. “He’s highly competitive and values hard work. It doesn’t surprise me he had success during those precious situations.”
To put the championship in perspective, some of baseball’s greats have played at junior colleges and not won a championship as Edwards has. To name a few, Albert Pujols, Bryce Harper and Craig Kimbrel have all competed at the junior college level.
“He developed into one of the best five-tool players, if not the best, I have ever coached. He hits for average and power at the same time, which is something that college and pro scouts salivate over,” Bishop said. “That young man has a great future, not only athletically, but academically as well.”
Edwards has achieved something most baseball players can only dream of, but he still has plenty of baseball ahead of him.
“I want to say it's a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, but I don't know. Hopefully I'm in this position again,” Edwards said. “I'm going to take a week or two off of everything and then just work hard after that. I'm just going to try to get better so I can help my North Georgia team win a championship, too.”