The wake of Will Craig’s Science Hill career produced waves of triumph.
Craig spent the summer getting drafted by the Kansas City Royals and winning two major championships with the East Cobb Yankees of Marietta, Ga.
The Wake Forest signee made a distant memory of the Hilltoppers’ first-round regional loss by helping the Yankees win a CABA World Series championship in late July in Charleston, S.C., and a Connie Mack World Series last week in Farmington, N.M. It was the Yankees’ sixth Connie Mack title, but first since 2008.
Playing with teammates headed to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Georgia, among others, Craig batted cleanup while being used at first base and designated hitter. And he gave up one run while pitching three innings to get the victory when the Yankees dealt Southern California its first loss of the tournament.
Craig said the Yankees went 5-0 with an average attendance of 5,000 spectators, and an estimated 8,000 were on hand for their championship win against Southern California.
“You can’t just stand out there and not look in the stands,” said Craig, fondly recalling the World Series’ community support, which included a parade attended by seemingly the entire town. “It was really special.”
Spending the summer with his teammates also made the titles sweeter than many showcase tournaments. In fact, Craig said the only feeling at Science Hill this spring rivaling the excitement was beating Dobyns-Bennett, 6-5, in Kingsport when he hit a final-inning grand slam.
Craig began the year batting fifth for the Yankees, dropped to seventh during a long slump and climbed to cleanup with a hot finish the final 3-4 weeks. He hit .344 with four home runs while helping the Yankees go 57-4.
He said he only pitched 16-18 innings, which was understandable on a team with pitchers like Matthew Gorst and Payton Smith. Craig said it seemed like they were all but certain to pitch complete games when they took the mound for East Cobb.
Craig is all but certain to face Gorst in college. Gorst will be pitching for fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Georgia Tech.
Craig moves in at Wake Forest on Thursday, and was happy to learn he’ll get to keep the No. 22 he wore at Science Hill.
Science Hill baseball coach Ryan Edwards also had a rewarding August. His wife, Sarah, gave birth to their fourth child. Laken, Edwards’ third daughter, was born Aug. 1.
Apparently the coach who has won at least a share of the conference title each of his six seasons at Science Hill uses up most of his Ls (losses) naming children. Edwards also has 6-year-old daughter Lydia, 5-year-old Luke and 3-year-old Lexi.
Science Hill will induct 13 new members into its Hall of Fame in October. Bryson Bowling, Tara Byrne, Terry Dellinger, Bobby Ellis, Sherrell Gage, David Hollowell, David Jenkins, Ray Judy, Michael Kuziola, Roberta Kuziola, Susanne Land-Depka, Todd Smalling and Jim Starr will be recognized at Science Hill’s football game against Sullivan Central on Oct. 11. The induction ceremony is Saturday, Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. in the Science Hill auditorium.
Perhaps some of the electees will be at Science Hill’s football game against Elizabethton on Aug. 30. The track at Kermit Tipton Stadium will officially be named for Sidney Smallwood before the game at 7 p.m. Smallwood, the longtime Science Hill athletic director best known for helping court Steve Spurrier’s family to Johnson City when Spurrier was 12, also coached basketball and track and field. Ellis won state titles in the high jump in 1950 and ’51 for Smallwood’s Hilltoppers. He also coached Starr, and Dellinger set a Big Seven Conference record in the triple jump in 1965.
It’s ironic that Science Hill Hall of Famer Joe McClain is throwing out the first pitch when the Johnson City Cardinals host Bristol on Monday – especially when he’s doing it in conjunction with National Senior Citizens Day, Appalachian Christian Village and seniors maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
McClain missed much of his season on the mound with the Johnson City Cardinals due to an arm injury he suffered playing center field in the nightcap of a doubleheader in Bristol. It was July 4, 1953, and McClain said he pitched a day game against Bristol in Johnson City before agreeing to be a late insertion in the lineup in the outfield for Grady Chavis that night in Bristol.
McClain said manager Jim Hercinger told him not to try and throw anyone out from center field – having pitched earlier in the day – but McClain said his competitive juices took over and he tried to throw a runner out on a sharply hit ball. He “felt something pop” in his arm when he made the throw and didn’t return to the mound until late in the season.
The Cardinals (84-43) played a 127-game schedule that year, and McClain went 10-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 108 innings. He went on to pitch for the Washington Senators, and recorded the first victory for the franchise that became the Texas Rangers.
McClain also competed for Smallwood, who recruited him to throw the javelin. McClain promptly set what he was told was a state record, and would’ve qualified for the Pan American Games with another throw had he not fouled by perhaps an inch.
McClain will be available for a meet and greet from 6-8 p.m.