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Three more John Milledge Academy student-athletes joined track star DaLoria Boone in signing their college letters of intent Thursday afternoon in a ceremony held in the school’s Trojan Center in front of most of the student body.
Two seniors signed to continue their baseball careers out of state while a third will move to a north Georgia university to pursue wrestling.
Bass taking his bat and glove to Johnson
John Milledge senior Tyler Bass formally signed on to play baseball at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn.
Bass bats leadoff for the Trojans, and is the senior member of the team’s outfield as he patrols left field.
“I just felt like spiritually and academically it was the best choice,” Bass told The Union-Recorder on why he chose Johnson. “They have a great program, so I’m looking forward to heading up there and seeing what happens.”
First-year head coach Andy Bonifay said he spoke to previous JMA head coach Justin Mills before the season to try and get a feel for the talent that was returning. Bonifay said Thursday that Mills told him in their conversation that Bass would be “his guy,” meaning he would be dependable and the ultimate team player.
“He wasn’t wrong,” Bonifay said. “Tyler’s one of my baseball-only guys. He’s dedicated a lot of time and effort to reach this point in his career.”
Bass handles his duties in the leadoff position extremely well as he leads the team in both on-base percentage and stolen bases. He has made All-Region in each of the last two seasons and is also a 2018 All-Star selection. Bonifay had high praise for his leadoff hitter at Thursday’s ceremony, saying he has a high baseball I.Q., a willingness to learn, and a great work ethic.
“That high baseball I.Q. and work ethic trumps raw talent,” the head coach said. “He has totally bought into everything that I’ve tried to teach him and excelled.”
Johnson University plays in the National Christian College Athletic Association. The school does not offer athletic scholarships, but Bass said there are academic scholarships available.
“It’s great,” he said on getting to continue his baseball career at the next level. “I’ve been looking forward to this my whole life — just playing baseball until I have to stop.”
McCrary headed to Florida Southern College
Senior Cody McCrary will join his teammate in playing America’s pastime at the college level, though he is headed in a different direction geographically.
McCrary will take his talents to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, an NCAA Division II school that plays in the Sunshine State Conference.
“Like me, this is Cody’s first year at John Milledge,” Bonifay said. “He’s one of those guys like Tyler that’s been out there since October working hard to get ready for this spring. … His offensive approach is one of his strengths and we knew that quickly. It’s been a pleasure to get to know and coach Cody in my first season.”
McCrary currently leads the Trojans in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage despite battling a hand injury. The JMA head coach said his pitcher/third baseman’s success this season has not been by accident.
“Cody’s been a great team player and is always striving to improve his game,” said Bonifay. “His productive season is a direct result of hard work paying off.”
The soon-to-be high school graduate is about to be a part of a really solid baseball program as Florida Southern boasts nine national championships, 17 conference titles, and 42 postseason appearances.
“They fit with everything that I wanted,” McCrary said. “They have my major that I wanted to be in and they offered me the chance to get to pitch and play the field too.”
McCrary added that he will likely move from third to first when playing in the field at Florida Southern.
Smith to wrestle at Truett-McConnell
Standout John Milledge wrestler Brandon Smith inked his letter of intent to become a Truett-McConnell University Bear during Thursday’s ceremony.
Smith has wrestled since middle school and finished fourth in the state as a sophomore at GMC Prep before coming over to John Milledge. Trojan head wrestling coach Doug Stephens said he knew right away his team had gained an asset when Smith joined the roster.
“When the season started Brandon brought a fire with him to practice,” Stephens said. “He wanted to get better every day and in return, he made his teammates better. Thanks in large part to his desire, drive, and the willingness to do whatever I asked of him, the John Milledge wrestling program went to new heights.”
Those new heights included third-place finishes in state in both 2017 and 2018 with Smith’s help. He won individual region championships as both a junior and a senior and broke through to win his first state championship this season. Smith’s resumé also includes eclipsing 100 wins as a wrestler, the school record for most pins in a season with 24, and 37 total wins over the past two seasons alone.
Smith said he’s really looking forward to continuing his wrestling career at Truett-McConnell, and the school’s interest in him is what drove him in that direction.
“They really reached out to me, and I just felt like I was wanted there,” he said.
“I feel confident in saying that whether or not Brandon cracks the starting lineup as a freshman, he will make an impact not only in the wrestling ring but as a person,” Coach Stephens said. “It’s been a true pleasure Brandon, and everyone wishes you congratulations and the best of luck in all the world.”
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