Colleton County baseball in unchartered waters under first-year head coach
By David Shelton
Walterboro – In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Colleton County baseball team is in contention for the region 8-AAAA championship this spring.
Under first-year head coach Jermale Paige, Colleton County enters the stretch drive in April with a solid shot at winning the region title, something that hasn’t happened very often.
Paige, a 2009 graduate of Colleton County, experienced playoff baseball three times as a player in the program. But never did the Cougars seriously contend for the top spot in any region. This year’s team enters play in the first week of April with a 6-1 record in region eight, good enough for a first-place tie with Beaufort in the league standings.
“I’m not surprised really because I felt all along we had the makeup and attitude of a very good team,” said the 26-year old coach who spent two years as an assistant before taking over last summer. “We talked during the fall about what we wanted out of this season. I told these kids that if they truly believed in themselves and believed in what we’re doing, we could make a run. This group has worked hard every day and their confident in each other. I’m not too surprised at all.”
Paige says getting the players, particularly the seniors, to buy in to what he was selling was important during the offseason. The group of six seniors, five of which play on a full-time basis, have shown solid leadership, according to the coach.
“They bought in early and have taken off,” Paige said. “Having success early was really important. We get more confident with every success.”
Leading the charge as leaders are a pair of workhorses on the mound – senior left-hander Michael Thigpen and senior right-hander Lake Bozeman.
“They’re both very capable of giving us a chance to win every time they pitch,” Paige said. “Michael also is a key hitter for us. The guy has been a varsity starter since the eighth-grade and he is having a great senior year.”
Junior Alan Grym and sophomore Chase Hadwin have provided solid work out of the bullpen for the Cougars.
Offensively, Thigpen is hitting over .360 and leads the team in homeruns and RBI’s. Senior Reese Penfield, a third baseman, and senior centerfielder Kaleb Gibson also provide key offensive work. Freshman leadoff hitter Trey Nettles, the starting second baseman, and sophomore shortstop Cody Cox have hit better than their experience would indicate.
Senior outfielder Josh Kinard and utility player Owen Bridge also have been senior leaders this spring.
Peeler named football coach
Colleton County has a new head football coach. The Colleton County school district recently announced the hiring of Greer High assistant coach Coby Peeler as the school’s new head coach.
Peeler, who played defensive back at Clemson and also is a former assistant at Stratford High, will assume full-time duties this summer but will travel to Walterboro for spring practices in May.
Peeler is a 21-year coaching veteran and also was Greer’s head wrestling coach.