By MONTE DUTTON
As its baseball team celebrated on Wednesday night, it appeared as if Clinton High School had only one team.
Football won Region 4-3A in the fall. Boys basketball won it in the winter, and baseball won it in the spring. It’s unlikely the Red Devils have ever pulled that trifecta before. At the very least, it’s time to review carefully and cross-check the banners in the gym.
This year Clinton has excelled in almost every sport: girls tennis in the fall, boys in the the spring, golf taking an all-time best sixth in the state tournament, wrestling rolling in its first year, girls basketball and softball in the playoffs, 13 state-meet qualifiers in boys and girls track, boys and girls soccer, and a sweep of the region athletes of the year, Bryson James for boys and Nah’shia Wright for girls.
The baseball team won the Upstate championship by pounding Seneca, 11-1, and while the lads were at play, representatives of everyone else were on the grounds: former baseball players from 2016 and 2022, when the team reached but did not escape the Upstate bracket, players and coaches from the other sports. Clinton High athletics has familiar faces because many of the athletes play two or three sports.
Call it the one-team concept. It’s damned heartwarming is what it is.
Head football coach Corey Fountain was out on the field. So was Furman assistant coach Tommy Spangler, whose son Peyton assistant coaches baseball and football at CHS. Tommy helped coach the football team in 2022 after being exiled by Presbyterian College for no good reason. Athletics director Louie Alexander, who has masterminded this renaissance, bided his time the usual way, making sure the other coaches and athletes received the credit.
Head baseball coach Sean McCarthy summed it all up and tied it together with a story from earlier in the day. He had called the team together to hit, and no one showed up.
Wilson Wages, who is playing baseball at Newberry next year, and Wil Stewart, headed to Lander to play basketball, attended “teacher signing day,” declaring their intention to become educators and coaches. The rest of the team attended the ceremonies to support Wages and Stewart.
The disobedience was civil.
“I was, like, where is everybody? Then Zach (Fortman) came, and he’d had a class he couldn’t get out of, and he said, ‘Coach, they’re all at the signing to become teachers.’ And I was, like, wow, that’s awesome. It was,” McCarthy said. “When they arrived, I said, ‘I hope you’ve got a good excuse.’ They said, yeah, well, actually, we do.
“If one or two went, I would have been [ticked], but they all went, and they all stayed together, and they were smiling when they got here, and I was, like, okay. They did a great thing for one another.”
They did a great thing for the community, too.
Check out my baseball novel, The Latter Days, here.