Woodland's Stansel signs with Young Harris baseball

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Koby Stansel leapt off the couch as soon as he received the phone call. He had been waiting months to hear back from his first-choice school.

All the waiting proved to be worth it, as Stansel officially received an offer to play baseball at Young Harris College. The Woodland senior signed his national letter of intent Monday to join the Mountain Lions, completing an admittedly stressful process.

“It was very stressful until I got the call, then it was relief,” Stansel said, noting he worked out for YHC during a fall camp. “That was my main school, the whole entire time.”

A great relationship with the coach is a strong draw for Stansel, but he also said it will help going to college with a few friends.

“I think it’s a good fit for me,” Stansel said. “Me and the coach talk all the time. We laugh; we cut jokes.

“I think it’s a good school for me. I’ve got a lot of friends, like five or six friends, going up there, so I’ll feel comfortable.”

Even though he’ll enter college with a few people he knows, Stansel almost believes the nature of the school will help him build an even larger network of friends.

“The campus is beautiful,” Stansel said. “They welcome you and make you feel like a family. That’s what I love about it. I don’t want to go to a school, where I feel like a stranger.”

He certainly isn’t a stranger at Woodland. In fact, he’s been a mainstay for the Wildcats for several years, pitching and playing third base for the team quite a bit during his high school days.

It’s why Woodland interim head coach Matt Montgomery said he’s looking for Stansel and the Wildcats couple of other seniors to help lead the team this year.

“He’s definitely one of those guys that’s got a lot of experience,” Montgomery said of Stansel. “We have a lot of juniors who haven’t had a lot of varsity time and some sophomores who we’re breaking in this year, as well. The few seniors we have are in key spots. We’re looking for those guys to kind of teach these young ones how it goes.”

Woodland is approaching the midway point of the season, and so far, Stansel has had a starkly different campaign than last year.

While he’s 2-1 on the mound this season, Stansel has seen his ERA, WHIP and strikeout:walk ratio all take a hit. While he certainly has the talent to right the ship in the second half of the year, Montgomery loves the competitiveness Stansel shows even when he’s been below his best.

“He’s someone who doesn’t really get rattled,” Montgomery said. “He’s very even-keeled. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s going to go up there and compete. That’s what you want out of a pitcher.”

Offensively, Stansel has gone from being someone who hits for average to one who can hit for power. He’s already matched last year’s total for extra-base hits, including hitting a home run — something he didn’t do at all last year.

Even though his batting average and on-base percentage are basically in line with last year’s numbers, Stansel’s seen his slugging percentage rise by nearly 140 points.

Woodland will hope the right-handed hitter keeps that up the rest of the season. Stansel likewise will cherish his remaining at-bats, as he’s set to be a pitcher only for Young Harris.

He’ll join a Mountain Lions program that seems to be on the rise in recent years, following three straight losing seasons from 2015-17. YHC enters today’s doubleheader with Francis Marion at 15-8 overall and 4-4 in the Peach Belt Conference.

Stansel will continue another recent trend, that of Bartow County baseball players finding their next home at Young Harris, as the Mountain Lions currently have representatives from Adairsville and Cass on their roster.

“They’ve got a good thing going on,” Montgomery said of Young Harris. “They had one of the best junior colleges a few years ago. Now going up to D-II, they have a really good coaching staff in there.

“They want good kids, and this area is rich with it. I would be trying to recruit people from around here, too.”

Now that Stansel has reserved his spot in the northern-bound pipeline, he can take a breath and relax. But only for a moment.

He’s still got his senior year to finish out and plenty of work to do ahead of starting college in the fall.

“I can focus on my grades, that’s the biggest part,” Stansel said of getting the signing out of the way. “It’s a big relief, because I’ve been working my butt off for years for this. It finally came, so I’m going to keep working and hopefully carry it to the next level.”