• 57°

LaGrange’s Anderson signs with Furman

Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – David Smart was glad to have Ben Anderson on his side last season.

During the 2014 season, Smart was the head coach at Northside High in Columbus, and his team faced off against Anderson and the LaGrange Grangers that spring.

Smart took over as the LaGrange head coach for the 2016 season, and one of his best players was Anderson, who was a junior outfielder and pitcher for a team that reached the second round of the state playoffs.

Anderson had an outstanding season, hitting near .500 while doing a great job defensively from his outfield position, and he was also one of the team’s top pitchers.

Putting Anderson in the lineup every day was about the easiest decision Smart had to make during his debut season as the Grangers’ coach.

“He’s one of those guys you don’t have to worry a whole lot about,” Smart said. “You put his name in the lineup, and tell him to go get ‘em.”

Anderson’s good work, both as a high-school player and for his travel team, hasn’t gone unnoticed.

A number of college baseball programs have been trying to land Anderson, and the winner of that recruiting sweepstakes was Furman University in South Carolina.

Anderson has known Furman is where he wants to go for a while, and last week during a signing-day ceremony in the LaGrange High media center, he made it official.

With his friends, teammates, coaches and family members there to experience the moment with him, Anderson signed his letter of intent with Furman, and he’ll be a member of the team for the 2018 season.

“It was really special,” said Anderson, whose sister Emily is a softball player at Georgia Tech. “I’m sure my parents were really proud to be there and see me do that, and all my friends were glad and excited for me. It was a really good feeling.”

Anderson was recruited by Brett Harker, who took over as Furman’s head coach in July.

Anderson said the opportunity to play for a new and energetic coaching staff was important to him.

“I really liked the coaches,” Anderson said. “This is their first year with a new coaching staff. The coaches are really young and energetic, and they’re fun to be around. And also, I played with two of the other commits going there. I’m good friends with them, and I know them.”

Smart said Anderson will be in good hands at Furman.

“The baseball program has a good young staff, a good young head coach,” Smart said. “They’re really up and coming. And that Southern Conference is a tough baseball conference. They’ll have their hands full. But it’s a good baseball school, and it’s an outstanding academic school.”

Anderson could have waited to sign, but he knew Furman was where he wanted to go and he made a verbal commitment in September, so he decided to take advantage of the early signing period.

“I was pretty much 100 percent on my decision,” Anderson said. “So I was going to go ahead and sign so I wouldn’t have to worry about that. You get a lot of stuff out of the way.”

While eager to begin his college journey, Anderson is also looking forward to his final season as a high-school player.

Anderson has been a key contributor since his freshman season when he helped lead LaGrange to the second round of the state playoffs in 2013.

Last season, Anderson was a driving force on a team that won a thrilling first-round playoff series against Union Grove before losing to Gainesville in the second round.

Anderson was not only LaGrange’s top hitter, but he was also a staff ace, combining with Jake Farrar and Jake Howard to give the team a formidable rotation.

In a critical late-season game against Harris County, Anderson threw a two-hit shutout in a 4-0 road win over Harris County.

Many of the players who helped LaGrange enjoy such tremendous success last season will be back next spring.

“I’m looking forward to (the season) a lot, probably the most of all my high-school seasons,” Anderson said. “It’ll be my last season playing with all my friends, and I know we have a chance to be really good and go really far. I’m really excited about it.”

Among Anderson’s teammates is his twin brother, Matthew Anderson, who was a standout infielder on last season’s team.

The two Andersons, along with a handful of other LaGrange players, have been teammates for years going back to their days as youth players.

“We’ve played with each other, and have been really close friends for a long time,” Anderson said. “Whenever we play, it’s like we’re a little family. It’s really fun.”

Smart is certainly glad to have Anderson back for one more season.

“The great thing about him is, it’s nice when one of your better players is one of your hardest workers,” Smart said. “That means a whole lot. That’s not always the case. That guy, he basically does three things. He studies, he works out, and he hits. I’m happy for him, and his family.”

OF NOTE: Ben Anderson is the third LaGrange senior baseball player to sign his letter of intent.

In November, David Sweat signed with Marion Military Institute in Alabama, and Willis Kemp signed with the University of North Georgia.