• 72°

Troup players sign together

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

They wanted to be together.

Three seniors on the Troup High baseball team are set to play college baseball, and they celebrated those decisions during a signing-day ceremony in the school’s media center last week.

Rather than holding separate events, Cooper Doughman, Colby Williams and Garrett Casey opted to have a joint signing-day ceremony, and they did it last week with friends, teammates, family members, and coaches there to celebrate the moment with them.

Troup head coach Craig Garner was thrilled with the decision.

“We talk about it all the time, our team should be a band of brothers,” Garner said. “No, we’re not blood-related, but you spend so many hours together. On the field, of the field, we want these guys to be as close-knit as a family. So for them to display that, and to voice that that on this day, it’s very rewarding, and I’m very proud of them.”

The three men have each had phenomenal high-school careers to this point, and they’ll be the foundation of a team that will have high expectations in 2019.

Doughman is a catcher who was behind the plate for nearly every inning of every game last season, and he was also one of Troup’s top hitters.

Williams, a hard-throwing right-hander, has been nearly unhittable the past two seasons, and he’s also a standout infielder and a key member of the lineup.

Casey, a left-hander, transferred to Troup for his junior season, and he teamed with Williams to give the team one of the state’s best one-two combinations on the mound.

Casey also plays first base, and he came through with some keys during the seasons.

In the first round of the playoffs last season against Ridgeland, Casey and Williams both threw complete-game shutouts in a series sweep.

All three men will have one more season of high-school baseball before making the transition to college.

Doughman will be going across the state line into Alabama to play for Chattahoochee Valley Community College.

While Doughman feels it’s a nice fit from a baseball standpoint, he said the fact that it’s a smaller school is appealing as well.

“You get to go, and you’re in a class with no more than 20 or 30 in a class,” Doughman said. “You’re not in a core class with 150 kids from there. I felt that would be the best decision for me.”

Doughman said he was happy to share the stage with his two friends and teammates during last week’s ceremony.

“It was awesome,” Doughman said. “It’s what we’ve been talking about since last year. We decided to do all of our stuff together.”

As far as being behind the plate for Williams and Casey, Doughman said “I’ve been kind of spoiled.”

While Williams and Casey are both elite pitchers, they have different personalities on the mound.

Williams shows more emotion on the mound and never disguises how he feels, while Casey keeps things cool and rarely gives away what he’s thinking.

“It’s different with them, especially on mound visits,” Doughman said. “It’s totally different with the two of them.”

Garner calls Doughman “the backbone of this group.”

“He kind of holds it together, and he’s the voice of reason,” Garner added. “He is truly one of those guys where the highs are not that high, and the lows are not that low. That’s what you want out of your catcher. You want your catcher to be the general on the field.”

Williams broke onto the scene when he was a freshman, and he was a starting third baseman for a team that won a region championship.

For the past two years, Williams has been mostly untouchable on the mound, and he loves being on the hill for the biggest games.

Williams believes he has what it takes to succeed in those pressure situations, and he almost always has.

“That’s one thing all of the college coaches have told me is that when I’m out there, it’s not just my ability, it’s my competitiveness,” Williams said. “I just know that my stuff is better than their bat 90 percent of the time.”

Garner believes that confidence, that belief that he will always come out on top, is a key to Williams’ success.

“I tell people all the time, he’s the most competitive player I’ve ever coached,” Garner said. “Without a doubt. It’s not even close, and I’ve coached a lot of good ballplayers.”

Williams had plenty of options when it came time to choose a college home, and he’s joining a Kennesaw State program that consistently competes for national titles in NCAA Division I.

“My goal is to be the Friday night guy when I get there,” Williams said. “That’s what I want to do.”

Willams will be working closely with pitching coach Kevin Erminio, who coached numerous pitchers who were drafted.

“The things he does there, and brings guys up to the next level, it was definitely the right choice,” Williams said.

For Casey, it didn’t take him long to become a part of the Troup baseball family.

“The first day I came down here, I hung out with Cooper, and they really embraced me and my family,” Casey said. “It was real quick, and these guys just became my best friends.”

Casey settled in and had had a terrific junior season, and he feels having a catcher the caliber of Doughman helped him succeed.

“It’s really valuable,” Casey said. “He knows the game, he knows how I pitch. He knows what to call. It’s different stuff that really helps me out.”

Casey will be going to Virginia to play college baseball, and he feels William & Mary is the right fit.

“It’s the school, the academics, and the campus is really nice,” Casey said. “It’s in a really nice town. It’s not too small, it’s not too big. It’s just a good environment, and the community really supports the athletics.”

While Garner has enjoyed coaching Casey, his main regret is that he only gets him for two years.

“I told Garrett that I feel slighted,” Garner said. “I’m very grateful, but I feel slighted because I feel like I’m getting you for the best two years of your high-school career, but I feel slighted that I didn’t get you for the first two, or the first three being able to bring you up as an eighth-grader. But I’ll be content with these last two the best I can.”

Garner added that “he came in and fit like a glove in our program. I can remember telling my coaches before I ever saw him catch or throw, I could tell he’s a player.”

OF NOTE: For more photos from the signing-day celebration, check out Facebook.com/LDNSports