May 17—VALDOSTA — For the second straight year, Valdosta High baseball is sending senior talent to Tifton.
Starting pitcher William Richards and catcher Cooper Samples signed letters of intent to attend Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) Friday afternoon.
Richards and Samples helped lead the Wildcats to a 20-13 record and an Elite Eight appearance in the GHSA 6A state playoffs.
"It's a day that every coach enjoys," Valdosta head baseball coach Brad Porter said. "You see kids realize dreams that they've had about playing baseball at the next level. Just to see them have that opportunity is a great day for Wildcat baseball. We really have a great relationship with ABAC baseball. We really have a good relationship with Coach (Brandon) Reeder and believe in what they're building over there. It feels good to have two more Wildcats going to play baseball there. I know that they're going to be in very good academic hands and I know there's some transition going on at ABAC, but we're really glad to see them have this opportunity."
During the signing, Porter called Richards, the ace of the Wildcats' pitching staff, and Samples, winner of the James Eunice "Best Teammate" Award and the Colton Shaw "Wildcat" Award as a junior, the heart and soul of the team. The James Eunice Award and the Colton Shaw Award are the two most prestigious team awards handed out by the Wildcat baseball program at season's end.
Richards went 3-1 in 36.3 innings and posted a 2.31 ERA. The senior lefty pitched back-to-back complete game shutouts against Tift County and Colquitt County and pitched a combined shutout with Samples against Lee County in region play.
Samples posted a .253 batting average with 18 RBIs and produced a .487 on base percentage. As a pitcher, Samples went 3-3 in 27.7 innings and posted a 5.06 ERA. In the team's home opener Feb. 19 against Worth County, Samples pitched a no-hitter in Valdosta's 6-0 victory.
"Cooper's just a guy that's gonna give you everything he has," Porter said. "He's gonna give you 110%. He's going to leave it all out on the field and compete, plus practice with the mindset of getting better every day. He's a joy in the hallways and the classrooms. I hear nothing but good things from teachers. He's a guy that just leads by example and a guy who's been a big part of our program for four years. He started some games for us as a freshman, so I'm just very proud of Cooper.
"In terms of Will Richards, I'm extremely proud of him also. Will is a testament to the development in our program. He came in as a guy that really, really needed some development and he put in the work and you give a lot of credit to Adam Speas as his pitching coach and what he's been able to do. In the years before Coach Speas got here, just the continued development that Will Richards has been able to progress through is just a testament to what you can do if you put your mind to it and you're taught the correct fundamentals and you're taught the correct mindset."