RUTLEDGE — Clay Crider and Jeb Hurst have played baseball together for years and now, they will have the opportunity to be teammates for two more seasons.
The Grainger dynamic duo inked their scholarship papers on Monday to play at Roane State next season and the pair of Grizzly standouts said the opportunity to hit the diamond as teammates for two additional seasons was a major selling point in their decision to become Raiders.
“I was worried about it a little,” Hurst said of the prospect of not knowing who he would play with or who would be his roommate if he signed somewhere else. “I have played baseball with Clay my whole life. We go back a long time, to probably fifth or sixth grade.”
Crider echoed that sentiment when he said, “The biggest thing was Roane State isn’t too far away from home and I get to stay on campus and room with Jeb.”
Grainger reached the 20-win plateau once again this season and finished second in the district to defending state champion Greeneville with a 9-3 conference mark. The Grizzlies’ offense was potent as they reached double figures in runs on 11 different occasions and at one point in the middle of the season, won 10 of 11 games. Hurst had an outstanding season in the field at shortstop as he was named the Blue Ridge Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year for 2019 and Crider was named to the second team All-District squad. Crider was one of the Grizzlies’ most potent pitchers as well as being a threat at the plate. He capped Senior Night with a bang as he homered for the Grizzlies in their final regular season game.
Hurst and Crider both agreed Harriman’s proximity to Rutledge was an advantage of playing at Roane State.
“I liked the fact it was a junior college where I could play for two years and then transfer somewhere else,” Hurst said. “It’s also not too far from home so I can still come home but it was far enough to where I could kind of get out.
“I’m blessed to be able to play at the college level. I’ve worked really hard,” Hurst said of the opportunity to play collegiately. “(Assistant) coach Cam Hamsley seemed like a great guy and (head coach Zach Sterner) played in the Philadelphia Phillies organization so I feel like the opportunity for development is really, really good.”
Crider said the tough teams Grainger saw each week has helped prepare him for the college game.
“The competition has been good,” he said. “We get to play Greeneville who won the state championship last year and we beat them last year. So we were able to play some very good competition while playing here at Grainger. In college though, I know that guys will be bigger, stronger and faster.”
Crider will major in Wildlife Management at Roane State and hopes to become a game warden in the future. Hurst will be a General Studies major with aspirations of attending law school one day.