The Cass Colonels baseball team has officially been eliminated from playoff contention after finishing the season with a 15-15 record, but there’s still some good news for the Colonels to hang their hat on this week.
Bailey Campbell, Jake Collum and Tyler Hendon all signed to continue their athletic careers in college in a ceremony at the high school Tuesday.
“I’m excited for these kids,” Cass coach Adam Williams said. “As high school coaches, all we can do is work to ensure that the kids we coach develop and get to go and have the ... opportunity to go play college baseball. These kids are going to get to go play a game, but more importantly, they’re going to get educated. They’re going to get an education and eventually come back and give back to the community some day.”
Campbell and Hendon are both headed to Young Harris, while Collum recently switched from Georgia State and will instead stay in Bartow County by attending Georgia Highlands.
All three were key this year as Cass rebounded from a 6-20 season in 2016 and posted a .500 record.
“We all had a bitter taste in our mouths from finishing with only six wins and we wanted to do something to go out with a bang,” Hendon said.
Campbell was one of the top hitters in all of Bartow County, posting a slash line of .427/.617/.817, walking more than twice as much as he struck out, and mashing seven home runs.
He’ll play first base for Young Harris, while Hendon will get the majority of his reps at the other infield corner.
Hendon was the other power threat for the Colonels this year, hitting three home runs, second on the team, and generally tearing the cover off the ball when he made contact.
Collum, meanwhile, was featured all around the field for Cass as the Colonels’ ace, center fielder and shortstop—and one of their top hitters.
The lanky pitcher struck out 63 in just 46.1 innings on the year and also hit .365, second only to Campbell.
“It’s been awesome,” Campbell said. “These are great guys, we come and we work hard every single day and we push each other to get better and that’s what makes practice fun.”
For Campbell and Hendon, heading to the same school only continues a trend that’s gone back for almost their entire lives.
The two have been teammates for four years on the varsity program at Cass, of course, and middle school teams before that, but the thread runs back even further.
“I’ve known Tyler since kindergarten, me and him were best friends in kindergarten and growing up,” Campbell said. “Playing with him through our whole entire baseball careers has been awesome, and getting to extend that for another four years is going to be great. I’m excited to see where it goes.”
It wasn’t exactly serendipity that saw them both choose the same school, as Hendon was introduced to the Young Harris program while tagging along on one of Campbell’s visits.
He liked the school and the program, and the coach was intrigued enough to reach out to Hendon as well.
Now the two of them will get their chance to turn around a team that’s no stranger to Bartow County players.
The YHC Mountain Lions are just 14-27 so far this year, despite former Adairsville Tiger Tyler Washington hitting .311 as a starting outfielder.
Cass alumni Cody Ledbetter is also on the team, pitching sporadically out of the bullpen.
The Mountain Lions had one more feature that appealed to Campbell and Hendon, both power hitters.
“The ball carries there very well there, just from being to a few games,” Campbell said.
Campbell plans to study environmental science, while Hendon will get a history degree with dreams of being a teacher.
Collum, meanwhile, will be hoping that his late change—he decided on Georgia Highlands about a week before the signing ceremony—was the right choice.
The tall righty was the Colonels’ ace in 2017, but he still has a lot of physical projection left, meaning muscle to add to his frame and ticks to add to his fastball.
“You just have to work hard every day, and it’s just a commitment,” Collum said. “My brother, he grew and I feel like I’m not done growing and if I get stronger and bigger I’ll be able to throw harder.”
That could take his mid-80s fastball up into the 90s, with high-major offers potentially waiting on the other side.
While he’s waiting for that to happen, Collum will be taking advantage of Highlands’ local program, which has proved a fruitful breeding ground for any number of Bartow alumni, including another former Cass pitcher, current Chargers reliever Bradley Hood.
“I feel like with me going to Highlands one year and [GHC coach] Dash [O’Neill] up there being the head coach, that he can get me somewhere bigger than where I was already committed,” Collum said. “It’s a blessing. LakePoint’s just becoming one of the biggest facilities in the nation and being able to play your home games there is just great. You have so many scouts that come watch, so many scouts that will be around.”
The signing was the end of a career for Collum that took him from Cass Middle School to Cartersville his freshman and sophomore year before he finally came back and found his home with the Colonels for the last two years of his career.
Collum was also the starting center for Cass’ basketball team.
“It’s great because I went to Cass my eighth-grade year and I became buddies with all the guys I played baseball with my 11th and 12th grade years, so it was a blessing for them to have open arms and welcome me back,” Collum said.
Collum is planning to study business.
The three-person signing—with Austin Pruett also expected to make his college choice official in a few days—was a good end to the season for the Colonels.
“I’m just proud of these kids, proud to watch them grow up into young men,” Williams said. “You coach, you want to play and win games, you don’t always come out on the right side, but to see these kids grow up and develop into future leaders of the community makes you proud.”