AIKEN — Wednesday was a special day for South Aiken athletic director and baseball coach Bob Polewski.
The coach watched as two of his top players signed letters of intent to play at the collegiate level.
Taylor Widener will play for South Carolina, while Cory Bryant will stay closer to home at USC Aiken.
“We’ve got one guy, Taylor, going to the SEC, which a lot of people consider the best baseball conference in the country, and Cory is going to one of the best baseball conferences in Division II, the Peach Belt,” Polewski said. “That’s pretty special.”
Widener, a right-handed pitcher who also plays the infield, is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I think it’s a big honor that I’ve worked this hard and I’ve gotten to this stage,” said Widener, who was 4-1 and hit .329 as a junior to earn player of the year honors from The Augusta Chronicle. “I will work hard to get better every day.”
Longtime Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner stepped down in the summer to become athletic director, but that decision doesn’t bother Widener. He was recruited by Chad Holbrook, who succeeded Tanner.
“I talked to coach Holbrook throughout the process, so I’m used to Holbrook anyway,” he said.
Widener will see action as both a pitcher and a position player, he said.
“They like me as a two-way guy,” he said. “I’m going to do both to start off with, and they’ll see which one plays out.”
Bryant, a left-handed hitting shortstop, said Pacers coach Kenny Thomas might play him at several infield positions and see what works best.
“He said all around, second, short, third,” said Bryant, who hit .369 last season. “Hopefully I’ll start playing (as a freshman).”
USC Aiken was an easy choice, he said.
“Good baseball team, good school and close to home,” Bryant said. “It kind of made the decision for me.”
First, both Widener and Bryant have some unfinished business at South Aiken. The Thoroughbreds advanced to the final four in the Class AAAA playoffs in the spring.
“We’ll see how far we can make it this year,” Widener said. “We should have a pretty solid team this year.”