All Augusta State coach Chris Cooper needed to know about Michael Weaver was who he caught.
The Edmund Burke senior catcher had a reputation for handling pitches from Los Angeles Dodgers closer, and Burke County native, Jonathan Broxton. If he can catch fireballs unleashed by Broxton, Cooper said, Weaver won't have any issues making the transition to college baseball.
Cooper added his third player to next season's Augusta State baseball team when Weaver signed his scholarship offer. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Weaver will get an opportunity to play immediately.
"We think he's got a chance to step in right away and catch," said Cooper, the Jaguars' second-year coach. "The hardest thing is to find a good catcher.
Weaver, a Hephzibah resident, is looking forward to the opportunity to stay home to play collegiate baseball. In his high school career, he sports a career .395 batting average with 14 home runs and 34 doubles.
"I think it's awesome," he said. "It's real exciting."
Weaver impressed Cooper with his hitting during a fall tryout. Weaver, who has played catcher since he was 8, also provides a strong presence behind the plate.
Now he will join a young Augusta State team trying to strengthen itself in a tough Peach Belt Conference.
"I think they're building it up," Weaver said. "They're young and they're only going to get better."
Augusta State is looking to make some headway in the Peach Belt before Weaver gets there. The Jaguars (21-28) open play in the double-elimination conference tournament against regular- season champion Francis Marion at 12:30 p.m. today in Columbus, Ga.
"This was one of our goals, to make the Peach Belt Tournament. That's a stepping stone toward building respect in the conference," said Cooper, whose team won six of its final 19 games to close the regular season.
"Our record's not very pretty, but we got where we wanted to go," Cooper said.
Augusta State already has made a five-win improvement over the previous season. The Jaguars are 10-14 against conference foes and 11-14 out of conference.
Augusta State right-hander Scott Shipman leads the Peach Belt with a 1.56 ERA, along with a 7-2 record and 58 strikeouts in 81 innings.
If the Jaguars are going to make a deep run in the conference tournament, they will have to improve their hitting, which ranks next to last in the Peach Belt (.259 average). Outfielder Caleb Saggus, who leads the Jaguars with a .315 average, leads the conference with 45 steals.