A Call to Arms

Pitching potential draws Georgia school to sign Panthers

A baseball team can never have enough arms.

As much as Thomas University liked what Brent Summers and Clayton Faircloth could do at the plate and in the field, it was their potential on the mound that led the NAIA school in Thomasville, Ga., to sign the all-county performers from Palatka High. 

Both came up big this spring, particularly down the stretch, as the Panthers won their first district championship in seven years.

A third baseman who batted leadoff most of the season, Summers hit .325 with seven doubles, a triple, nine RBI and 17 stolen bases. An outfielder when not pitching, Faircloth batted .286 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and RBI.

But it was what both did as pitchers that helped them land with Thomas University.

The sidearming Summers was 2-1 with an 0.98 earned-run average and four saves with 19 strikeouts and only three walks in 15 and a third inning. He was never better for Palatka than he was in the postseason, where he got three of his four saves – the District 5-5A semifinal against Santa Fe, the title game against Bradford and the state playoff opener against Eustis.

“They’re definitely going to use him as a sidearm pitcher. Their pitching coach worked in the major leagues as a sidearm pitcher,” said PHS coach Alan Rick. “He was pretty much unhittable.

“I know they want him tom come in and pitch. We’ll see how Brent matures over the summer. If he puts on some weight, they may give him an opportunity to play second or third. He definitely can field.”

Summers’ older brother Blake, another former PHS standout, is Thomas’ starting shortstop after having begun his college career at Daytona State.

Faircloth developed into the Panthers’ No. 1 starting pitcher as a senior, notching wins over Santa Fe and Eustis. A righthander with a more conventional delivery than Summers, Faircloth was 3-3 with one save and a 1.70 ERA. He struck out 21 and walked 13 over 32 and two-thirds innings.

“He was able to throw multiple pitches for strikes,” Rick said. “He has a good curveball and slider. He was really effective when he kept the ball down. He threw strikes and let our defense work for him.

“There’s a lot of upside to him. Next spring, he could be throwing 86, 88 (miles per hour) with work on his mechanics.”

Both are exceptional students, recognized as Putnam County Top 50 Scholars as well as all-county baseball players.

They are the second and third Panthers to sign baseball scholarships, following catcher Clellan Barnes, who is headed to St. Johns River State College.

Former Interlachen High and St. Johns player Randy Adams is head junior varsity coach and varsity assistant at Thomas and was present when Summers and Faircloth recently signed.

The Nighthawks were 20-30 this season.