Landon Holley is grateful to have the opportunity to continue playing organized baseball. The South Aiken High School senior wasn’t sure what the future would hold for him on the diamond after this season with the Thoroughbreds.

So when a coach from USC Sumter reached out to Holley and offered him the chance to play on the college level, the South Aiken outfielder was enthusiastic.

“They were the only one who asked me, so when they asked I said yes. I didn’t think twice,” Holley said Tuesday, as he officially signed his letter of intent to go to USC Sumter where he said he’ll begin working toward a degree in Chemistry or Anatomy. “It’s exciting. I was nervous because I didn’t think I’d get this opportunity.”

USC Sumter’s a two-year college and Holley said it’s the ideal place for him to continue to build on the baseball foundation he’s established at South Aiken. He said it allows him to continue his development on the field while building his frame in the weight room. He plans on getting bigger and stronger in college, something T-Breds head coach and athletic director Bob Polewski said will happen naturally for the player he describes as having great natural strength.

“He’s got lots of natural talent. His physical maturity and talent will come out more in college,” Polewski said of Holley, who he credited for improving every season he’s been a part of the South Aiken program, development he expects to continue this season and during Holley’s college career. “He’s progressed each year and is still making jumps.”

In addition to Holley’s power, Polewski said his left fielder’s defensive prowess should help him have an immediate impact with the Fire Ants. Polewski said Holley has a tremendous throwing arm, something that helps as a spot pitcher, and tracks the ball well in the outfield, taking good angles on fly balls. Polewski was confident that Holley’s good work ethic would help him adjust to the tough pitching he’ll face in college and give him to be a consistent force in the lineup.

Holley thinks he’ll have the chance to play immediately for the Fire Ants, but expects he might start at the bottom of the batting order. Regardless of where he bats or plays, Holley’s going to make the most of the opportunity.

“These could be my last two years playing so I’m going to give it my all. I want to be able to say to my kids one day, ‘Your dad was a good player,’” said Holley, who has adopted advice from Polewski as a personal motto. “Coach tells us ‘Nice guys aren’t going to finish games.’ You can be nice outside the lines, but when you’re in the game, it’s a war you have to win. I’ll scratch, claw and do whatever I can to get the job done.”

That approach could help Holley extend his career beyond USC Sumter, and possibly allow him to continue playing at a four-year college.

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.