TIFTON — The NCAA and NJCAA both ended their spring sports seasons because of COVID-19 last month.
The ruling stopped short the 2020 campaigns for many Tift County and Tiftarea Academy baseball and softball alumni who who were playing at colleges all across Georgia, with another Adam Spurlin, playing in North Carolina.
Known college softball and baseball players from the area are: Christian Avant (Georgia Southern), Le Bassett (Mercer), Grant Hall (Andrew College), Parke Johnson (Emmanuel College), Ragen Lasseter (ABAC), Keshaun Mays (Andrew), Dawson Patterson (ABAC), Joseph Pittman (Augusta University) and Spurlin (Elon).
Below is a synopsis of the 2020 season for each athlete.
A junior, Avant was hitting .266 when play stopped for the Georgia Southern Eagles. Avant homered against Valparaiso and drove in three runs in games against Valparaiso and Georgia. For the year, Avant had 12 RBIs and 17 hits.
Bassett was in the midst of a comeback in 2020. A redshirt sophomore, he missed all of the 2019 regular season because of injury. Going into this campaign, he was named All-So-Con first team as a designated hitter.
Bassett was off to a .250 start for the Bears. His final game saw him homer at Georgia State and score twice while driving in four runs. Bassett cleared the fence twice in 2020 and had 17 RBIs total.
Hall was on a roll at Andrew College. After redshirting in 2019, Hall worked his way up to infield starter. In 2020, Hall’s average was .300, with as many walks as strikeouts.
Hall had 15 hits in 50 at-bats, including a period in mid-March when he collected nine hits in 14 at-bats. He had a six-RBI game against visiting Black Hawk College of Moline, Ill.
Johnson walked on to Emmanuel College’s baseball team for the 2020 season. He had yet to make an appearance.
A freshman Fillie, Lasseter hit .270 in 12 games, with a homer and 11 runs batted in. Lasseter reached base in nearly one-third of her plate appearances a .357 clip. Her best game was against Hillsborough Community College (Fla.), where she hit the homer, had three hits and knocked in four.
Mays parlayed a strong senior year at Tift County to a chance in college. He’s made the most of it. After redshirting in 2019, Mays seemed well on his way to an outstanding 2020. In five appearances (three starts), Mays had a 1-0 record at Andrew College and a 2.81 ERA.
Mays’ last appearance was his best, a complete game shutout over Point University’s junior varsity. He allowed just two hits and struck out three.
A transfer from TCC, Patterson appeared in six games for the Stallions. In 3.1 innings, he struck out nine and earned a save. Though his earned run average took at a hit at first, Patterson seemed to be finding his groove.
The save came in his last appearance, a 9-6 ABAC win over Brewton Parker’s junior varsity. Patterson gave up no earned runs in his last two games and struck out four in a shade under two innings.
Patterson, Mays and Hall would have been reunited during the last week of March when their schools took on each other in a four-game series spread between the schools’ campuses.
One of Tift’s most reliable pitchers on the mound in 2019 (and leading home run hitter), Pittman struggled some in this year’s appearances at Augusta University. He did fan two against Georgia College in February and made seven appearances total.
Spurlin was in his senior year at Elon following stints at Augusta University and Florence Darlington Tech. He was hitting .235 with the Phoenix in 2020 with home runs in consecutive February games against Delaware State. His final game of the season, against East Carolina, saw him go 2-for-4 with two runs driven in.
Besides his hitting ability, Spurlin was an occasional pitcher at Elon. He made two appearances in 2020 and struck out one hitter.
All the athletes involved in spring collegiate sports have been granted an extra year of eligibility if they want to return to playing.