HOMERVILLE -- Rhett Barber has wanted to be a baseball player since the first time he picked up a baseball with his left hand.

He's been one for four years at Clinch County High, and now he'll be one at Georgia Southern.

Barber, Clinch's star left-handed pitcher and first baseman, signed a scholarship last week to Georgia Southern.

"You don't see a lot of kids his age with that kind of control and presence, and that's what impressed us when we saw him," Georgia Southern head coach Rodney Hennon said.

Barber chose Georgia Southern in part because they wanted him to be both a pitcher and a hitter.

"I want to pitch and hit, and they said I'd do both," Barber said. "Other schools just wanted me as a pitcher."

A lot of schools wanted Barber to pitch for them. Florida State, Clemson, Alabama and East Carolina were four of them. But Barber felt Statesboro was the best place for him.

"They've only got two left-handed pitchers, so I'm going to get a chance to pitch," Barber said. "They said they thought I'd be able to pitch right away."

"We feel he has a good chance to get on the mound as a freshman and give us some innings," Hennon said.

Barber thinks Hennon and pitching coach Sean Teague, who won a College World Series ring at LSU, will help him become a better pitcher.

Barber came on the 1-A scene as a freshman, when he led the region in strikeouts (120), and earned All-Region and Valdosta Daily Times All-Area honors, as well as being area Freshman of the Year. He made both teams again as a sophomore, when he had a 1.82 ERA, and a junior.

Last year was his best as a Panther. Barber went 9-0 with a 1.01 ERA as a pitcher, striking out 88 batters in 79 innings. At the plate, he batted cleanup and hit .422 with four home runs and 28 RBI. That season earned him region Player of the Year.

Last summer, Barber was selected to play for Junior Team Georgia and the Dixie National team, and also competed at the East Coast Showcase, at the request of the Florida Marlins.

He throws a fastball that goes as fast as 89 mph, as well as a good curveball, a change-up, and a cut fastball. He's also a good defensive player, another reason GSU likes him as a fielder, too.

Georgia Southern is impressed with its new lefty, and people at Clinch understand why.

"Rhett has got to be the hardest worker that's ever played for me," said Clinch head coach Cecil Barber, who's also Rhett's father. "I don't say that because he's my son, because he works outside of practice, too. He's constantly working to get better."

"Rhett's a good pitcher, but he's always coming to me, asking me 'What can I do to get better?'," Clinch pitching coach Trent Hatton said. "He's always trying to get better, and that attitude is going to make him a success in baseball and in life."

Before he leaves Clinch, though, he still has a couple more goals to accomplish.

"I want to help us win state in football, and then in the spring, help us win it baseball," Barber said. "I think we've got a shot at both."

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Barber is the starting tight end for the Class A No. 1 Panther football team. Clinch should be one of the higher-rated A teams in baseball, too.



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