Richmond Hill High School baseball coach Stacy Bennett called first baseman Shane Buerster and pitcher Slade Walker two big reasons the 2014 Wildcats won 20 games in a single season for the first time in the program’s history.
Bennett had more than that to say about his two former players.
Thursday at the school’s media center, Bennett announced the two will continue their baseball careers — Buerster at Mercer and Walker at East Georgia College.
Walker, Bennett said, was instrumental on the mound for the Wildcats, especially against high-profile opponents such as Wayne County and during the playoffs. Walker’s performance against Northside Columbus helped propel Richmond Hill into the second round.
“He was just outstanding for us through the playoffs, Bennett said.
Buerster, who spent the first of the season unable to play due to injury, rebounded to make All Region 3-AAAAA as a first baseman despite joining the program as a catcher.
“He did a lot of great things for us offensively and defensively, but I think his biggest attribute for the team this year was his leadership,” Bennett said. “And that’s something that as a coach I can’t thank him enough for. You’ve only got so many coaches, so to get players to buy in and be leaders and an extension of the coaching staff is a great thing. Both of these guys were leaders for us.”
Walker, who is 6-foot-4 and possesses a wide repertoire of pitches, said he chose East Georgia because he liked the “small town atmosphere” and because of the family atmosphere promoted by coach Chuck Lusted.
Walker is also ready to get started.
“I get to proceed to next level like I’ve always wanted to, so I’m excited and can’t wait to get up there and get started,” he said. “We practice as soon as we get up there. On day one school starts, on day one practice starts. I’m ready for fall ball.”
Walker, the son of Ricky and Staci Walker, said he eventually wants to study mechanical engineering and plans on getting his core classes out of the way while he’s playing at East Georgia, which is in Swainsboro.
“I want to get up there for two years and maybe transfer to a bigger college and if I get the opportunity, then go from there,” he said, and thanked his pitching coach at RHHS, Scott Strickland, and his mom for “backing me up my whole life.”
Buerster chose Mercer over other schools because of its academics, Bennett said, and Buerster noted he’d drawn interest from a number of schools ranging from Savannah State to Wofford.
“I’d rather go to a program where I know the academics are extremely strong,” he said. “That’s always been the foundation and it’s what my parents have always preached to me. To go to Mercer and to also have the opportunity to play baseball there, I’m very grateful for it.”
He expects to play first base at Mercer after working out for coaches there, but his future could involve representing professional athletess rather than being one himself.
Buerster plans on majoring in sports management while minoring in Spanish and psychology with an eye on a career in sports — though whether that’s as an agent or something else entirely is something he isn’t certain of yet.
“I couldn’t see myself doing something without sports in it,” he said. “It’s been a big part of my life for four years, so in the business world I want to do something in sports.”
Like Walker, Buerster also thanked parents, coaches, and added in teachers at Savannah Country Day, where he attended his first three years, and Richmond Hill High, where he graduated and was able to earn college credit through advanced placement classes. Buerster also thanked God, “first and foremost,” he said.
Bennett said both schools are getting good players and good young men.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity for both these guys,” he said.