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Todd HolcombTodd Holcomb

Baseball: Milton star P/SS Cease to return this week … Updates on Hardaway, St. Pius, Houston County

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Milton pitcher Dylan Cease, a major league prospect with a fastball that has reached the high-90s, will return to the Eagles’ lineup this week, but probably not as a pitcher or even a shortstop for another month, Milton coach Joey Ray said Tuesday.

Cease, who is committed to Vanderbilt, has been limited to 12 innings pitched since suffering pain in his throwing elbow a month ago.

A shortstop when not on the mound, he’s batting .343 with two home runs in 35 at-bats. He’ll be limited to a DH role until his elbow gets healthy. No structural damage was found.

The defending Class AAAAAA champions, Milton is 14-7 overall, 7-2 in Region 5-AAAAAA.

‘’Losing Dylan for the better part of the year has been tough on us, but the boys are doing their best to not let it affect their season,’’ Ray said. “They’re playing well.’’

Milton has a strong staff even in Cease’s absence. Lefthander Alex Schnell, a Clemson signee, is 5-2 with a 1.01 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 48 innings. Matt Geiger is 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 41 innings.

Second baseman Ryan Gridley, who has signed with Mississippi State, is batting .443 with 31 runs scored. He’s been moved to shortstop in Cease’s absence. Also hitting well are center fielder Dalton Ewing (.407), Georgia State-committed first baseman Jack Thompson (.323 with eight extra-base hits) and outfielder Josh Saavedra (.429).

No. 4 Hardaway chases Region 5-AAAAA title

Hardaway, the fourth-ranked team in Class AAAAA, is closing in on its second straight Region 5 title. That will be decided Friday, when the Hawks play a double-header against Harris County at Golden Park, a former minor league stadium in Columbus. Hardaway is 16-4 overall, 10-2 in the region.

The team is led by a pair of four-year starters. Josh Anthony, a catcher who will play at Western Oklahoma State College, is batting .455 with 28 runs scored. He’s been Hardaway’s top hitter for four seasons. First baseman and cleanup hitter Blake Meadows is batting .328 with seven home runs and 27 RBI. He’s signed with Wallace Community College. Tre’von Dorsey, a junior, is hitting .430 with 25 runs. He’s 5-2 as a pitcher with a 2.20 ERA. He pitched a no-hitter last week – but lost 2-0 to Lee County.

The team’s top prospect ultimately might be sophomore Tony Locey (4-1, 2.05 ERA). He was gunned at 90 mph in a game last week. Coach Chris Gilstrap said that he’s heard from eight or 10 college coaches this week.

“His name is starting to get around,’’ Gilstrap said. “You start flashing 90 mph at 15-years-old, and that makes college coaches drool.’’

Gilstrap played on Hardaway’s state runner-up teams in 1997 and 1998 and Columbus State’s national championship team in 2002. Hardaway was 9-16 in his first season, 2012, but 25-7 last season and reached the second round of the AAAAA playoffs, losing a Game 3 to Evans.

St. Pius scratches its way to No. 6 ranking in AAA

St. Pius has hit only three home runs and lacks a .400 hitter in the lineup, but the team is 19-6 and ranked No. 6 in Class AAA. The Lions are good at getting on base. The leading hitters have been senior outfielder Branden Mitchell (.367 with .487 OBA), sophomore catcher Chris McNulty (.387, .580 OBA), senior second baseman Jack Pelt (.339), senior shortstop Grant Williams (.344, team-leading seven doubles) and senior third baseman Peter Zyla (.327, .478 OBA). Williams has signed with Kennesaw State. Zyla has signed with Duke. Nine pitchers have at least five innings, which is rare for a high school team. Those holding teams in check on the mound include Nick Spear (1.75 ERA, 28 IP), Sam Czabala (1.97 ERA, 21 IP), Garrett Gooden (2.83 ERA, 17 IP) and Andrew Garrett (0.43 ERA, 16 IP). St. Pius made the AAA semifinals last season.

Third-ranked Houston County averages 9.1 runs/game.

Houston County, ranked No. 3 in Class AAAAAA, is averaging 9.1 runs per game through a 16-4 start. Hunter Phillips is batting .439 with 10 extra-base hits. Hunt Smith is batting .418 with 23 runs and 21 RBI. Third baseman Blake Jackson (.516) has four home runs and seven doubles in 31 at-bats. Jackson has signed with Georgia Tech. Shortstop Justin Jones (signed with Georgia State) is batting .386 with nine doubles. The Bears had won 14 straight games but lost on Friday to Jones County 9-4. The team is 9-1 and leading 2-AAAAA. Houston County made the AAAAA quarterfinals last season.

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