Lee County starting pitcher Jess Posey says he doesn’t want to be in the shadows of his two older brothers, Jack and Buster — both of whom went to FSU — so he plans to walk on at Georgia. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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WHO: Forsyth Central at Lee County.
WHAT: Second round of GHSA Class AAAA state baseball playoffs.
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. today — Game 1, followed immediately by Game 2.
LEESBURG — Forsyth Central has never been to Lee County to play baseball, but the team knows the name Posey.
“A couple of them mentioned the Posey name to me the other day,” Bulldogs head coach Kevin McCollum said. “We’re aware of the name and the good reputation Lee County has for baseball.”
McCollum’s Forsyth Central team will make the 3 ½-hour drive south today for the Sweet 16 round of the GHSA Class AAAA baseball playoffs in Leesburg. The best-of-three series begins at 4:30 p.m. with today’s doubleheader, and Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Lee County’s Jess Posey (7-0, 2.44 ERA) will likely start the opener after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the Trojans’ sweep of Wayne County in the first round of the playoffs.
Everyone in the state, and the nation by now, knows the Posey name after oldest brother Buster burst onto the MLB scene two years ago during the San Francisco Giants’ World Series run. Another older brother, Jack, played at Florida State as well and sister, Sam, is a senior star softball player at Valdosta State, which is currently in the Division II playoffs.
Jess, though, has felt the expectations since his freshman year, starting as a ninth-grader which few have done for the Trojans. Jess hit a go-ahead home run against Thomas County Central that year and won a varsity game, something neither of his older brothers did as freshmen.
“I’m sure a lot of people expect me to be like Buster, but I just try to be my own person,” Jess said. “It would be crazy for someone to be like him.”
Jess has blazed his own path, fighting through a severe back injury his junior season that caused him to miss all but seven games. Jess, who is hitting .400 with 15 RBI, says the time off was beneficial because it allowed him to watch and learn the game from a different perspective.
This season another injury caused him to miss nearly two weeks after he fractured his toe kicking the dugout after a strikeout early in the season.
“That was my fault,” Jess said with a grin. “I just lost my temper.”
Jess is back now, fully healthy, and has been the top Trojan arm in a late-season run that has helped Lee County win eight of its last nine games. He has struck out 50 batters in 43 innings and gone unbeaten in eight starts.
“It took a little bit of time to get back in the groove, but he really seems to be in a groove right now,” Trojans head coach Rob Williams said. “What I told Jess, just like I told Jack, ‘You be yourself. You do the best you can do and that’s all we can ask for. Don’t worry about what Buster did or what Jack did.’ ”
Jess has done just that, and plans to walk on at the University of Georgia to pitch, joining teammate Daniel Nichols, who signed with the Bulldogs this offseason and has backed it up with a .472 batting average, 11 homer and 37 RBI.
Jess could have followed his brothers to Florida State, but he says he wants to make his own name, although he’s proud to have the famous surname.
“I feel like going to UGA is my own path,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the shadow of Buster and Jack … (But) I would never wish to not have my last name. I love my family, and I just take it as it comes.”
There’s one more thing neither older Posey brother did at Lee County, or any Trojans team for that matter: win a state title. Buster’s 2005 team fell in the state championship series to Henry County, led by then-sophomore Jason Heyward, who is now a starter with the Braves. Now the youngest Posey has a shot at finishing the journey.
To do that, Lee County (20-7, Region 1-AAAA No. 1 seed) will have to get past Region 7-AAAA No. 3 seed Forsyth Central, led by catcher Daniel Bermudez and lefthander Andrew Gist. Gist and Bermudez’s brother, David, allowed just three runs in 14 innings of their opening-round sweep of Winder-Barrow on the road.
“We have four or five guys who have thrown for us who have come in and thrown strikes and put the weight on the batter to do something with the sticks,” said McCollum, whose pitching staff has allowed just 3.6 runs per game. “Pitching has been a strength for us.”
Lee County hasn’t advanced past the second round of the state playoffs since 2008, while Forsyth Central (20-7-1) hasn’t gotten this deep in a very long time.
“I don’t think it’s been any time in the last 15 years,” said McCollum, who is in his fourth season at Forsyth Central.
A 50 percent chance of rain is in the forecast for today’s doubleheader. Lee County’s junior lefthander Chris Mosley, who was slightly injured in the opening round after colliding with Nichols at first base, should be fine for the second-round series, Williams said. Mosley is 7-1 on the season with a 3.50 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 42 innings.
The Lee County-Forsyth Central winner will play the Alexander-Whitewater winner in the quarterfinals next week.
“There’s only 16 of us left, so you’re not going to get any easy ones,” Williams said.