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When college coaches look for catchers, they think defense first and if a potential prospect can hit it’s considered a bonus.
For Bryan College head coach Taylor Hasty, he got both offense and defense Friday morning as the Lions skipper signed Rockwood’s Lucas Jolley.
“We think Lucas is going to be a good fit for us,” Hasty said. “When looking for a catcher you want to find a hard-nosed kid that’s willing to work hard and we think we’ve got that in Lucas. He’s got a good frame and we believe he’s going to be a big time player down the road. We’re expecting big things from him.”
For Jolley, playing college baseball is a dream come true and the timing couldn’t be better as he didn’t want to think about the recruiting process during his upcoming senior season.
“I’m really excited to be signing with Bryan and to have this over with before the season starts,” Jolley said. “There’s no pressure on me now. I can just go out and play baseball everyday.”
“I’m very happy for Lucas and I’m proud of him,” Rockwood head coach Jake Witter added. “You love it anytime you have a kid that’s worked hard for something and Lucas has done that. It’s exciting that he gets to continue his baseball career, but the most important thing is that he’s getting a college education.”
As a catcher, Jolley does everything well according to Witter on the defensive end.
“Lucas receives the ball well, he blocks the ball well and he throws out runners. A lot of teams we face don’t even try to run on him,” Witter said.
“I only made three errors last year,” Jolley added. “I think they (Bryan) like my defense. I feel I do a pretty good job of blocking the ball and I throw well.”
Coach Hasty also thinks Jolley has a sound fundamental base.
“Defense is the most important thing for a catcher,” he said. “Lucas has a good catch and throw plus he sets up and receives the ball well.”
While his defense is sound enough to allow him to compete for playing time as a freshman, his ability with the bat could give him just enough of an edge over the competition.
“That’s the icing on the cake,” Hasty said. “His offense is definitely a bonus. He’s got a really good swing.”
“Lucas is an aggressive hitter that doesn’t like to walk,” Witter added. “He’ll probably need to back off that aggressiveness in college and take a walk when it’s there, but he hits the ball really well.”
While Jolley has all the tools to be successful, his biggest adjustment in college won’t be learning to hit faster pitchers or throwing out faster runners. It will be learning to handle pitchers over such a long season.
“The biggest thing for Lucas to learn is how to control the game from behind the plate,” Hasty said. “In college, you have to know how to call the game and control your pitcher. You also have to know how to take care of an entire staff. In high school, you might only have a couple of guys to worry about, but in college he’ll have more guys that he has to know from starters to the bullpen.”
Jolley, however, has an ace in the hole when it comes to taking command and leading a team. Besides being a catcher for the Tigers, Jolley also started at quarterback for the Tigers football team and he led the green and gold to the TSSAA Class AA semifinals as a junior. It was Rockwood’s deepest run in the playoffs in more than 30 years.
“I think it helps a lot,” Jolley said of his leadership skills. “I’m used to people looking to me and listening to me. I feel my teammates respect me and they know I know what I’m talking about.”
But before Jolley heads off to Bryan College, he’s looking to lead his team back to the TSSAA Class A State Tournament this season. Last year, the Tigers came up just short as they lost at Hancock County in the TSSAA Class A Sectional.
“Our goal is to get to Murfreesboro for the state tournament,” he said. “It’s going to be tough because we’re in a tough district, but I think if we can get past Harriman and Grace Christian then we’ve got a good chance of going a long way.”