There isn’t much Providence Christian pitcher Grayson Stewart needs to drastically improve on the mound, although his twitter game may need some work.
“A little late on twitter, but I’m excited to announce my commitment to Troy University! Go Trojans,” Stewart tweeted this weekend.
“I committed about a week ago, but I was just getting around to letting people know,” Stewart said Sunday night in a telephone interview.
His commitment to Troy is just another highlight in an unforgettable year for Stewart. He helped the Eagles win the Class 3A state championship this spring.
“Obviously, he had an unbelievable year,” Providence Christian baseball coach Casey Smith said. “We went into the season knowing we had three or four really good pitchers to lead our team, which we did. We kind of left it up to them to see who would be the No. 1 or who would be most consistent.
“Man, he stepped up. He was completely consistent the whole year. He worked really hard in the offseason, and during the season his velocity got up and stayed up the whole year, if not increasing as the year went on. His command is what sets him apart. A lot of kids throw hard, but they can’t all throw strikes. Even if they can, they can’t put it where they want to. He was outstanding with his command.”
Stewart finished his junior season – he’s still got his senior year ahead of him – with a 9-1 pitching record, one save, and a 1.94 earned run average. He threw a two-hit shutout to open the title series against Piedmont. He finished with just 19 walks allowed and 85 strikeouts in a Wiregrass-high 72 1/3 innings. He also hit .355 and had a .486 on-base percentage with 31 runs scored and 24 RBIs. He was a Dothan Eagle Super 12 selection before he was named the Class 3A Pitcher and Player of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
His improvement throughout the course of the season mirrored the Eagles’ journey to the state championship, Smith said.
Stewart said Troy was a great fit for him for a number of reasons. The Trojans offered him earlier this summer, he said.
“I knew Troy was close, I was very familiar with it, I have people up there I knew,” he began. “I know they have a great team, a great coaching staff, I really like the pitching coach (Matt Hancock). I just felt like it was a good place for me. …
“It’s always been a goal of mine to play on the college level, no matter what it was – D-I or JUCO or D-II, whatever. It’s definitely cool to get to play at Troy. It’s close. My mom and dad went there. It’s cool to play college baseball anywhere, but it’s extra special to play at Troy.”
Troy also has something no other school has. His best friend, Matt Snell, who help G.W. Long win its third consecutive state title this spring and the Dothan Eagle’s Player of the Year, will start school at Troy next month.
“We’ve been playing (travel ball and summer ball) together since we were 8 years old,” Stewart said, mentioning Snell and G.W. Long’s Slade Simmons, another Dothan Eagle Super 12 selection this spring. “We’ve been best friends since we were 8, too. It’s awesome that we get to play together in college, too.”
Stewart said he never thought about it becoming a reality until recently, but recalls talking about playing college ball with Snell when they were much younger.
“I actually remember when we were little kids and talking about how wouldn’t it be cool if we’d go to Troy and be a package deal and stuff,” he said, laughing that it doesn’t really work that way. “It’s actually crazy that it turned out like that.”
They’re still playing together and the summer hasn’t ended. Snell, Simmons, who has signed with Chattahoochee Valley, and Stewart are part of the Troy Post 70 American Legion team that won the Alabama state championship last week in Montgomery. They will play in the Southeast Regional in Tampa, scheduled for Aug. 7 to 11.
“We’re going to the regionals next week. It’s been fun to play with each other,” Stewart said. “I know it might be our last summer ball team together. Matt will probably play somewhere else next summer. We’ve played the last three summers together in Ozark and Post 70. He hasn’t pitched much this summer, just because his arm’s been hurt, but I think he’ll be able to pitch in the regionals, so that will be fun.”
Stewart has been throwing. He will give his arm a rest once the summer season ends.
“Once Post 70 ends that’ll be it for a while because I’ll be playing football,” Stewart said. “I’ll give my arm a 3-4 month break. I totaled it up, between school and summer I’m at about 100 innings for the year. It’s been non-stop. We started throwing in January. It’ll be good to have a break once it’s over.”
In addition to Stewart, Snell and Simmons, Stewart’s Providence teammates Cole Smith and Coleman Wright are also playing for Post 70. Joey Wozniak of Wallace College, Carson Fain from Ariton and a mix of others from as far away as Opp and Montgomery are playing for head coach Rush Hixon.