Americus Travelers set to kick off 2017 season
Published 12:59 pm Sunday, May 21, 2017
From STAFF REPORTS
The Americus Travelers 17U Baseball Club is set to begin another summer of elite travel baseball. The team will begin their season on June 2 at the Terry Jinwright Invitational Tournament at Troy University in Alabama. They will then make their way up to the University of West Georgia in Carrollton for the Game On Showcase event on June 9. The following weekend will be the Matthew Jernigan Invitational in Dothan, Alabama. On June 23, the Travelers will be a part of the Perfect Game Super 25 tournament at Lakepoint Sporting Complex in Emerson. On July 1, there will be a Travelers weekend in Americus and the summer will culminate on July 7 – 13 in Vero Beach, Florida at the AAU National Tournament to be held at historic Dodgertown.
Tim Estes and Jeff Fussell will once again coach the team of area high school players in a quest to both win a national title and showcase their talent to college coaches throughout the Southeast.
This summer, the roster includes Schley County’s Jarrod Wall and Lee County’s Will Lang who will split the catching duties. Bainbridge High School’s Will Kelley will be the anchor at third base. Crisp County’s Will Lanneau and Schley County’s Camron Vanlerberghe will hold down the two middle infield spots. Lee County’s Gavin Paul is expected to see most of the time at first base. In the outfield, Sherwood Christian’s Jarrett Kemp and Schley County’s Chance Hollomon will be in left field. Schley County’s Reid Ragsdale is expected to see the bulk of the time in centerfield. Lee County’s Tyler Ross and Matt Cooper will split time in right field. Schley County’s Cameron Belcher will serve in a designated hitter role and hopes to see some time on the mound as he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery earlier in the year.
All good teams rely on a solid pitching staff and the Travelers have added quality and depth to their staff for 2017. Gavin Paul, a 6’5” left hander will enter the summer as the ace. He features a mid 80’s fastball, good off speed pitches and command of the strike zone. Will Kelley returns as another power pitcher. The righty is also a mid 80’s guy with high-level experience.
New to the staff in 2017 will be 6’ 5” right hander, Matt Cooper. Cooper gives the Travelers a third starter that can run the fastball into the mid to upper 80’s. Tyler Ross, Will Lanneau and Chance Hollomon are also expected to see plenty of innings on the hill for the Travelers. It is hoped that Cameron Belcher can begin to throw a few innings as he builds up his arm strength once again after having off-season elbow surgery.
In addition, the Travelers will welcome Ole Miss commit, Aaron Greene, to the staff on a part-time basis.
“We’ve had a close-knit group for many years that brings a lot of talent to the field and they care about each other” said Estes. “I think the addition of Cooper on the mound and having Greene with us when he can will make us a contender at any level. We are really hoping that Belcher can throw some as well”.
One of the goals of the Americus Travelers Baseball program is to see their players get an opportunity to play at the collegiate level. The fruits of their labor is already being seen. Centerfielder, Reid Ragsdale, recently signed with Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. Faulkner; an NAIA National Power, is one of the most successful college programs in the country. Will Kelley, of Bainbridge, has committed to Tallahassee Community College, one of the top Junior College programs in the Country that competes in the always-tough Panhandle Conference.
Several other Travelers will get a lot of attention this summer. Gavin Paul is expected to draw a crowd whenever he pitches. The 6’5” lefty has several schools interested in him. The 6’5” righty, Cooper, is sure to have coaches vying for his services as well.
“Everyone is looking for pitching and we have a couple that have the body frame, velocity, and stamina that will make them good prospects” said Fussell who serves as the Travs pitching coach. “When you’re a position guy, you just never know what a school is in need of at the time so we just put our guys in a position to be seen by the coaches in attendance and see where it goes”.
While getting to the next level is important, the Travelers have always been about building strong relationships with the families in the program and seeing their chemistry vault them into the national championship scene. In 2017, the team will be participating in the Amateur Athletic Union National (AAU)Championship in Vero Beach, Florida. “AAU is probably the most well-known travel program in the country” said Estes. “We are looking forward to being there and competing for a National Championship. It will certainly be a challenge and it will be our job to get these guys prepared for that challenge”.
The team’s progress can be followed on their website at www.americustravelers.com or on their Facebook page.