SYLVESTER -- One day, Worth County ace Allen Fender hopes to be in the starting rotation for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
But for now, he's taking his services just up the road to Darton College.
Fender, one of just two returning senior starters for the Rams, along with Tyler Hembree this season, inked with the Cavaliers earlier this week in a ceremony at the school, saying he wanted to choose his college now, rather than later, so he could turn all his attention to helping lead Worth County to a region title and deep state run.
"I really liked their program and they told me that after this season five pitchers were leaving, and it would pretty much be free play for (a starting spot)," said Fender, a 6-foot-3 hurler who struck out 75 batters with 26 walks last season while also hitting .392. "I wanted to go D-1, of course, but I thought it was more important to just focus on this season and start at a junior college."
Fender was clocked at 87 mph during summer and fall workouts, according to Worth County coach Will Smith, whose program is celebrating its 100th year this season -- "Longer than any other high school in the state of Georgia (when it comes to baseball)," Smith added. The Rams will hold an opening night ceremony Feb. 22 against Turner County and plan to invite every former player it can find to come and take part.
And Smith said there's little doubt in his mind that Fender will show Darton what a find it got from the Rams' very first pitch.
"He and Tyler will be our leaders all year, and with Allen signing early, the pressure's off," Smith said. "Allen just has a good, live arm from the left side and this last year should be a great one for him."