Coming off a freshman campaign that saw him win 10 games, expectations were high for Gordon Lee sophomore pitcher Conard Broom coming into the 2013 season.
He didn’t disappoint.
Broom shook off an early-season loss at Darlington to post a 13-1 record for the Trojans this past spring, and his 112 strikeouts and 1.25 ERA in 78 2/3 innings were enough to earn him Player of the Year status in Region 6-A, one of the toughest and deepest baseball regions in the entire state.
Today, Broom receives one more honor as the 2013 Walker County Baseball Player of the Year.
“Coming off a pretty good year (as a freshman), I just wanted to improve this year and I think I did so,” Broom explained. “I’m very proud to be honored as the (Walker County) Player of the Year.”
Despite still being an underclassman on a team loaded with outstanding senior talent, Broom said he felt pressure to be a major contributor.
“It’s just the mentality I have,” he said. “Even though I kind of proved myself (as a freshman), I’ve matured a lot since last year. I prepared more in practice this season and took everything a little more seriously. I came into this season just wanting to get better.”
“When I talk about Conard, I always have to go back to his work ethic,” Gordon Lee head coach Mike Dunfee said. “To be as young as he is, and to have that kind of composure, is exceptional. He really worked hard in the off-season to pick up more velocity, and he kept working hard all season long.
“You never had to worry about which Conard would show up. He was dialed in every time he toed the rubber, and all we had to do was just hit the ball and play defense behind him.”
Broom said work ethic is a family trait.
“My sisters and parents all take work very seriously,” he said, “so I guess you can say (work ethic) just runs in my family.”
Broom began to really hit his stride in the middle of the Trojans region schedule.
He tossed an 11-strikeout, no-hitter against state playoff participant Mt. Pisgah on March 22 and followed up with a 10-strikeout, five-inning, three-hit outing versus Walker in his next start.
He avenged his lone loss with a 10-strikeout, three-hitter in the subregion title game against Darlington, then blew away Irwin County, Turner County, and Treutlen in the state playoffs.
But his gutsiest performance of the season came on the final weekend at Charlton County.
Taking on the Indians for the Class A public school state championship, Broom helped the Trojans force a third game with a complete game victory in Game 2. Then, one just one day’s rest, he asked for the ball in the decisive game for the state title.
Broom allowed just one run on five hits with six strikeouts in that final game. He completed another seven innings before having to be replaced due to the GHSA’s 14 innings per series rule for pitchers.
“I knew we had him on the bench and he wanted the ball,” Dunfee said. “I thought if we just got three innings out of him then that would be awesome, but he just kept going back out there. He only threw 79 pitches in seven innings, It was fun to watch.”
Broom has recorded 23 of Gordon Lee’s 54 wins in the past two seasons, and with good young talent still in the fold and more on the way, Dunfee hopes more good things are in store for his workhorse.
“It’s exciting to think he’s just going to be a junior next year,” Dunfee added. “I’m just glad he’s on our side.”
THE REST OF THE 2013 WALKER COUNTY BASEBALL DREAM TEAM
Bryce Bailey (Gordon Lee) – The future Berry College football player capped his high school baseball career by hitting .352 with eight doubles, four home runs, and 34 RBIs for the Class A public school state runners-up.
Connor Coakley (Gordon Lee) – The senior outfielder put up outstanding numbers from the No. 2 slot in a potent lineup, finishing with seven doubles and two homers among his 48 hits. He also scored 40 runs, drove in 42 , and stole 18 bases.
Tray Hill (Ridgeland) – The senior slugger was the area's long ball champion after racking up nine homers for the Panthers to go with seven doubles, 29 runs driven in, and a .352 season batting average.
Daniel Johnson (Ridgeland) – The Panthers senior captain had a big year in his final year in Black and White, leading the club with a .368 average, while smacking two home runs, collecting eight doubles, and knocking in 26 runs.
McKenzie Kelehear (LaFayette) – The Gordon College signee did a little of everything during his time as a four-year starter, hitting .310 as a senior with 14 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and eight stolen bases for the Ramblers.
Dylan Lanham (Oakwood Christian) – The freshman and two-year starter has already established himself as a top pitcher for the young Eagles, while he batted .500 this past spring to go with a .607 on-base percentage.
Josh Manning (LaFayette) – A dependable first baseman and pitcher for the Ramblers, the senior closed out his prep career by hitting .337 this spring with seven doubles, 23 RBIs, and 16 runs scored.
Branton Phillips (Gordon Lee) – The senior had a superb final year for the Trojans, batting .393 with seven doubles, three triples, four homers, and 37 RBIs, while going 4-1 with four saves, 40 K's, and a 1.98 ERA in 35 1/3 innings on the hill.
Jake Rogers (Gordon Lee) – The third baseman batted .376 as a sophomore with 38 hits and 35 RBIs, and was a major contributor on the mound, going 5-1 with two saves while recording 36 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings with a 3.54 ERA.
Tanner Sexton (Gordon Lee) – The future Tennessee Temple catcher hit a blistering .394 out of the No. 3 hole with seven doubles, two homers, 32 RBIs, and 36 runs scored, while drawing 23 walks and striking out just seven times.
Adam Vandiver (Gordon Lee) – The senior outfielder was the prototypical leadoff hitter, racking up 48 hits and 48 runs scored, while stealing 24 bases, knocking in 21 runs, and hitting a gaudy .432 on the year.
Cody Wilson (Gordon Lee) – The steady senior shortstop displayed a solid glove in the infield while hitting .349 with six doubles, one triple, 10 stolen bases, and 22 RBIs for the 30-win Trojans in 2013.
Bay Wright (Gordon Lee) – Another solid defensive infielder for the Navy-and-White, the senior second baseman and clean-up hitter batted .387 in the spring with 41 hits, including nine doubles, 33 RBIs, 34 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases.
Micah Wyatt (LaFayette) – The Tennessee Temple signee led the Ramblers with a .438 average to go with 12 doubles, three triples, and 16 RBIs, and went 6-3 with two saves on the hill, posting a 3.44 ERA and striking out 57 batters in 57 innings.