With their senior season still a few months away, two South Aiken baseball players solidified their college decisions on Wednesday.
Pitcher and first baseman Taylor Widener signed with the University of South Carolina, while middle infielder Cory Bryant inked his letter of intent to play for USC Aiken. T-Bred head coach and athletic director Bob Polewski said that he likes having players sign before the season starts.
“Some people may think ... they kind of take a break after they sign. I don’t believe that,” Polewski said. “I think there’s some achievements yet to be made as far as team goals. I just think the type of players that they are that this is just something they don’t have to worry about.”
Widener, who also received attention from College of Charleston, The Citadel, Georgia and Georgia Southern, chose South Carolina because of the Gamecocks’ pedigree on the diamond.
“It’s one of the top schools in the country, and I know they have a good program,” he said.
Widener added that, at least at first, first-year head coach Chad Holbrook and the USC staff have told him that he’ll get the chance to pitch and hit as a position player. He also said that, while he’s gotten some attention from MLB organizations, his plans lie in Columbia right now.
“I’ve talked to a bunch of pro scouts, but right now, just my main focus is Carolina,” he said.
Polewski said that Widener’s ability to pitch or contribute offensively will make him an asset for the Gamecocks.
“He’s a two-way guy, and I think especially in the fall, they’re going to let him go both ways,” Polewski said. “And we’ll see from there where it kind of pans out, if it goes in one direction or the other.”
Bryant, meanwhile, also talked with Francis Marion and North Georgia, but he said that USC Aiken stood out from its Peach Belt Conference foes for reasons of proximity and the quality of baseball the Pacers play.
“It’s close to home. Good school, good baseball,” he said.
Bryant could get the opportunity to play either middle infield position for head coach Kenny Thomas, he said. One area of the game where he’ll fit right in to the Pacers’ scheme is offensively as a potential member of the “Creatures of Havoc,” players who specialize in bunting for base hits, getting infield hits and stealing bases. Polewski said those fundamental skills are some of Bryant’s strengths.
“He’s going to run a little bit; he’s going to be able to do some things offensively,” Polewski said. “He’s going to bunt the ball, move runners, hit to all fields.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.