Brandon Smith’s beard may not stay with him for long at Georgia Highlands College.
His baseball talents should, though, and those are more important anyway.
The 2013 Northwest Whitfield High School graduate will attend the junior college in Rome and play for the school’s inaugural baseball team.
Smith, a center fielder, originally was planning to play at Maryville College in Tennessee, with a scholarship, but the intentions fell through.
“I ended up messing around and not taking the ACTs,” Smith said. “Coach (Todd) Middleton said Georgia Highlands needed an outfielder and they were looking at me.”
Georgia Highlands announced in the spring of 2011 it would begin athletics and started with basketball and men’s and women’s tennis in the fall of 2012. Baseball has joined the fold and will begin play next spring in the Georgia College Athletic Association, which is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association. The Chargers will be coached by Mike Marra.
“We’re starting a program from scratch, so 95 percent of our team will be high school graduates,” said Marra, who was the Monticello (N.Y.) High coach until 2012 when he accepted the job at Georgia Highlands in September 2012. “So we like to get kids who have competed for four years at high school.”
Smith said the decision to go to the new program was a last-second deal — noting the school watched him at a local baseball showcase held in Dalton — and he won’t receive a scholarship. He still caught Marra’s eye.
“He has a lot of very good tools,” Marra said. “When we recruit, we look for tools. He has a great arm in the outfield, great speed, can handle the bat well and I think he’ll be able to compete as a freshman.
“We’re only going to keep six outfielders total, and we think he’ll match up with those we already brought in.”
One of the things Marra asked of Smith is to shave his beard.
“He’s making me shave it off,” he said. “It kind of sucks, but I’ll get over it I guess.”
Smith started growing it before the 2013 season’s tryouts and never once shaved as the Bruins continued to experience success. Northwest enjoyed its best season since 2007, finishing 24-8 and winning the Region 7-4A championship. Northwest reached the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
“We don’t allow facial hair in spring time and on game day,” Marra said. “We got a little kick out of it because it is pretty sick. He can wear it all fall, but come spring time, he has to get rid of it.
“I’ve been coaching for 20 years now, and it’s always been more or less my protocol. ... When I had a kid in Monticello High, we had a kid with hair down to his shoulders. When I came, I said, ‘That has to go.’ Funny thing is, the kid hasn’t grown his hair long since, and he’s in his second year of college. So Brandon may have a beard now, but once he shaves he might not want to grow it back.”
Smith had a solid senior year. He was a member of The Daily Citizen’s 2013 All-Area Baseball Team and earned a spot on the coach-chosen Region 7-4A team. He had a team-leading 42 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .440.
“Like I’ve said before, he’s one of the best if not the best center fielder I’ve been around,” Middleton added. “His arm strength is exceptional and has gotten stronger every year. It got stronger as this year went along. With the bat, he did the job of a leadoff man. He got on base and led us in runs scored. Along with athletic abilities, he has great baseball instincts.”
For Smith, the beard doesn’t matter as much. Playing baseball at the next level is much more important, and if he had to choose, he’d rather show off his baseball talents than his beard-growing talents any day.
“It has always been a dream to play ball after high school and see how far I can take it,” Smith said.
• Southeast Whitfield graduate Alex Rosillo will play soccer for Talladega College in Alabama.
Rosillo, nicknamed “Bofo” among his peers, rebounded from a broken leg his junior year and made The Daily Citizen’s 2013 All-Area Boys Soccer team after scoring 14 goals and assisting 16 others. He played outside midfield for the Raiders, who reached the Class 4A state championship match.
“He should be ready for the next level,” Southeast coach Kevin Kettenring said. “They’re getting a good-quality player, a good team player and he’s been through a lot of adversity in his high school career.
“It’s a good step. It’s what we like to see our boys do.”
Neither Rosillo nor Talladega coach Emanuel Stephens were available for comment. Talladega competes in the Gulf South Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
• Murray County High School graduate Drew Tankersley and North Murray High School graduates Brandon Parrish and Adrian Patino will be part of the inaugural season of men’s golf at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, which has campuses in Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Whitfield and Walker counties.
The trio join Heritage-Catoosa’s Gavin Reeves and LaFayette’s P.J. Shields on the roster for the Bobcats, who will begin practice later this month. They will participate in collegiate tournaments throughout the upcoming school year and also play a club schedule in the spring. They will begin competition in the National Junior College Athletic Association starting with the 2014-15 school year.
The Bobcats will be coached by Jared Willerson and they will practice and host matches at LaFayette Golf Course.
“P.J. brings an amazingly solid game and Brandon (Parrish) is a fine golfer who more than likely is going to bring the leadership ability a team like ours is going to need on and off the links,” Willerson said. “This is a solid core for our inaugural run. Adrian (Patino), Drew (Tankersley), and Gavin (Reeves) all bring some solid qualities to this team. Adrian is our scraper, Drew is a big ball striker, and Gavin has shown some amazing flashes of brilliance this year.”
Golf is the latest addition to the athletic department at GNTC, which launched intercollegiate athletics in 2007. Administrators are examining plans to launch baseball, cross country and softball as soon as 2015.
Brandon Smith’s beard may not stay with him for long at Georgia Highlands College.
- Southeast High School Raiders
Bringing in the best
When high school football coaches look for events to take their teams to during the summer, they are looking for three things — top competition, organization and hospitality.
For The Daily Citizen’s Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship, the Dalton community and local business leaders take care of the latter. The tournament officials work tirelessly to provide the organization. And the two combined assure the top competition will show up.
In the lineup again
When Northwest Whitfield repeated as the Georgia High School Association Class 4A softball state champion last fall, that appeared to be the last time the majority of the Lady Bruins’ senior class would be teammates on the diamond.
Now, thanks to the Stump on Sports All-Star Softball Classic, five of those six seniors will reunite to play together one more time.
Junior golf: Hicks able to hang for final round
Despite giving up a few strokes from Monday’s opening round of 4-over-par 76, Dalton’s Landon Hicks was the only local competitor to advance to the third round of the Georgia Junior Championships.
All-Area Spring Female Team: Salinas hoping things keep getting better and better with age
Isabel Salinas’ freshman season for Southeast Whitfield High School’s track and field team wasn’t up to her standards, and she really isn’t sure why it ended up that way in 2013. It could have been her injuries. It could have been not being in proper shape.
One thing Salinas, nicknamed “Izzy” by friends and coaches, does know is that her sophomore year went a lot better.
All-Area Baseball Team and Player of the Year
As a freshman at Northwest Whitfield High School, Seth Pierce came out of nowhere and was as dominant a pitcher as the area had. Finishing his “rookie” season with the Bruins, the left-handed Pierce led the area with nine victories — he also had one save — and showed overpowering dominance with a 9-3 record and 89 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. He finished his first season on the hill in Tunnel Hill with a 1.71 ERA while allowing 61 hits and 23 walks. Those numbers were also recorded against competition in a higher classification as the Bruins were playing Class 4A ball when the state had just five classifications. His performance earned him honors as 2012 The Daily Citizen All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
State soccer: Raiders come up a goal short
GAINESVILLE — Southeast Whitfield High School’s boys soccer team needed at least one break to go its way against Johnson-Gainesville in Tuesday’s Class 4A state semifinals.
Even when the Raiders believed they had earned a break, they didn’t receive the credit.
Prep boys soccer: Different routes for Dalton, SE
The boys soccer teams at Dalton and Southeast Whitfield high schools are eyeing a return to the Class 4A state title game.
But while they share a common ambition, the routes the Catamounts and Raiders must take to reach the championship on May 17 at Kennesaw State University are taking a different turn tonight.
Prep volleyball: SE libero Paloblanco to Temple
In volleyball, the libero position is limited to playing on the back row and specializes in defensive contributions.
Southeast Whitfield High School senior Yasmeen Paloblanco wasn’t limited in what she meant to the Lady Raiders, though, and her ability to excel as a libero is helping her remain on the court as she heads to college.
Since he was very young, Southeast Whitfield High School senior Rhett Harper has often had a ball in his hand, with another game to play or a practice somewhere on his calendar.
Sectionals for sisters
TUNNEL HILL — When you consider all of the hours of practice, all of the years of gymnastics training and the physical demands of being a cheerleader, the last word you would expect to hear an athlete use to describe herself is “lazy.”
- More Southeast High School Raiders Headlines
- Bringing in the best