The Valdosta Daily Times
It doesn’t take long to see what Daniel Tefft has meant to the Valdosta High baseball program this season.
The senior first baseman leads the Wildcats in most offensive categories, while also providing a wealth of leadership. Now, Tefft will be taking that sweet left-handed swing to Macon after signing with Mercer University on Wednesday in the VHS Performing Arts Center. Tefft is the first Wildcat to sign with a Division I school out of high school since pitcher Earl Daniels inked with Georgia in 2008.
“I really liked the coaches there and they have a great baseball program,” Tefft said. “It’s definitely an honor to get to go to a Division I program like that. They have one of the best programs in the nation.”
The Bears, who were 31-10 entering Friday’s game at Florida Gulf Coast, certainly fit that description. Mercer has won five Atlantic Sun Conference championships, including the league’s regular season title a year ago. The Bears lead the league again this year, and have already clinched a berth in the A-Sun championship.
In Tefft, Valdosta coach Bart Shuman thinks the Bears are getting the type of player that will help maintain that level of success.
“They’re going to get a young man that works extremely hard,” Shuman said. “He’s very coachable, and those are the key words that stick out in my mind.”
That hard work has paid off for Tefft this season. After what Shuman described as somewhat of a struggle a year ago, the Wildcats’ big bat has produced a team-leading .420 average with four home runs and 27 RBIs, good for a .725 slugging percentage and 1.206 on-base plus slugging percentage, all high on the team.
He has also scored 16 runs and doubled nine times, while coming through in the clutch with his team-best .593 average with runners in scoring position.
“He’s just had an outstanding year,” Shuman said. “He’s come a long way since he came to Valdosta.
“He’s been a leader hitting and has been a leader off the field. He’s the total package and he’s just a great role model for our kids and our school. We need more kids like Daniel Tefft in this country.”
And there was probably no bigger hit than Tefft’s walk-off, two-out single in the bottom of the seventh at Noel George Field to complete Valdosta’s improbable comeback to sweep rival Lowndes on March 21. Valdosta hosts Thomas County Central at Bazemore Field today in its home finale before finishing up Region 1-AAAAAA play with a doubleheader at Brunswick on Friday before heading into the playoffs.
Now though, he has his sights set on helping the Bears.
“I’ve been going through the showcase process since my junior year, trying to figure out where I could play,” he said. “I didn’t know whether I would get a Division I offer or not, but I’d been talking to Mercer for awhile, and it eventually worked out.”