Science Hill baseball is beginning to produce as many Senators as Super PACs do.
Three Hilltoppers will play next season for Science Hill graduate Ken Campbell at Walters State.
Reed Hayes and Kyle Wilson each announced their decision on Tuesday, and Walters State recruiting coordinator Dave Shelton said that former Science Hill player Matt Pope is transferring from Kentucky to play for the Senators.
Hayes initially committed to play baseball at Tennessee. Also an all-conference player in football and basketball, Hayes passed up a football offer from Furman last fall. He said the Paladins were going to let him try to play baseball, too.
“In football season, that’s all I had my mind on,” said Hayes, who had arguably Science Hill’s most dynamic season ever as a first-year starter at quarterback last season. “But then once I got into baseball season I just wanted to go play baseball at the next level. … And the (Furman) quarterback … started this year as a freshman. I didn’t want to go to one of those deals and just sit behind him.”
Hayes, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander, pitched and played center field. He hit .379 and led the team with 45 RBIs. He had 13 doubles, three triples and four home runs. He was 5-1 on the mound with a 2.31 ERA. He had 50 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.
“Reed being a three-sport athlete – he’s such a good athlete – there’s some rawness in him on the baseball field,” Shelton said. “But I think once he starts concentrating on baseball, who knows how good he’s gonna be. We’re not even for sure what he’s gonna develop into – Is he gonna develop more as a pitcher or more as a position player? – because he’s got a chance to be pretty good at both.”
All of the clichés about gritty gamers apply to Wilson, a shortstop who batted leadoff. He hit .362 and was second on the team with 45 runs. As a sophomore, he hit a clutch home run in a win against Dobyns-Bennett.
After a scary crash into a fence at Daniel Boone last season, Wilson stayed in the game and got a hit in his next at-bat. He got a hit in the last at-bat of his career, which helped Science Hill force extra innings in its regional loss to Sevier County on Monday.
“Kyle’s a scrapper,” Shelton said. “He’s either driving in a big run or he’s getting on base when they need it and scoring a big run, or he’s making a great defensive play. … It’s one of those deals where we weren’t in desperate need of middle infield help, but the more I watched Kyle, the more I liked him. And you can never have too many good infielders.”
Wilson said Science Hill graduate Will Carter, Reid Matthews (Dobyns-Bennett) and Josh Peterson (Unaka) helped sell Walters State. Carter, a Tennessee signee, is a red-shirt sophomore for the Senators recovering from elbow surgery.
“Will said how much he liked it and that the coaches were great,” Wilson said. “He said it was relaxed baseball but it was intense at the same time, and that it’s gonna get you seen if you’re down there playing. He loves it down there.”
Wilson is excited about reuniting with Pope and continuing his career with Hayes. He recently found an old picture of a 6-year-old All-Star team that he and Hayes played on when Hayes’ father, Richard, was the coach.
“We won the championship when were six years old,” Wilson said with a smile. “It hit me that me and Reed were going to play together from when we were six until, like, 20 years old. That’s cool. I’ve known Pope for a long time, too – since Little League ages.”
The 6-foot-7 Pope red-shirted as a freshman at Kentucky after getting drafted in the 38th round last June by Pittsburgh. He has thrown as hard as 94-95 mph, but is still harnessing his velocity.
“I feel like he had the best arm in the state of Tennessee last year in high school,” Shelton said. “The few times we saw him – me and some other scouts – he was 90 to 94 (mph) and that arm really works. He just needs to pitch, and you know, the SEC is not really the place to iron out mechanics. There’s just not enough margin for error there. Hopefully, we can provide that and give him the innings he needs to really develop and have a shot and getting into professional baseball.”
Campbell’s Senators won their conference and host the East Central district tournament. They open Thursday at 3 p.m. against Georgia Perimeter. The winner of the four-team tourney advances to the NJCCA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., beginning May 28.
The Senators reached the World Series four times in six years (2003-08) under Campbell and won the national championship in 2006.