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Albany's Townsend faces life-changing decision

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Former Sherwood Christian star pitcher Jason Townsend doesn't want to think about anything but facing Clemson in the NCAA Super Regionals, which start Saturday in South Carolina.

But after that? Whoa, buddy -- does he have one major-league decision.

Literally.

Townsend, who is now a junior relief pitcher at SEC powerhouse Alabama after spending two years with one of the nation's premier JUCO programs, Chipola Junior College in Chipley, Fla., was drafted in the 31st round (No. 927 overall) of the Major League Baseball Draft on Wednesday by the Pittsburgh Pirates and now must decide whether to forgo his senior season with the Tide or begin his professional baseball career.

"I've been pumped all day. I couldn't eat. It's something I've been waiting for all my life," Townsend said. "Right now, the goal is reach the College World Series. But I definitely have a big decision in front of me."

Jay Flynt, Townsend's coach for all four years at SCA, said Wednesday that his former star pupil faces a "tough, tough" call.

"I talked to him and his dad Wednesday and I think we both just told him he had to do what was best for Jason and nobody else," Flynt said. "He knows if he goes back to Alabama he could be their No. 1 or No. 2 starter next season, but he's also dreamt of being a professional baseball player for most of his life."

Townsend, a right-hander who is normally the first pitcher out of the bullpen for Alabama's Super Regional team, is 2-1 this season with a 6.25 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 36 innings.

"Right now, he's concentrating on Clemson and nothing else," Flynt said. "He's going to take two or three days to figure it out after that."

Although, Flynt added that Townsend would no doubt be weighing the decision in the back of his mind.

"Any time you have the chance to go pro, you're talking about (life-changing) lucrative money," he said. "It's not the fifth round, or anything like that. But he knows it will be a lot of money, and he understands the risk of returning and possibly getting hurt."