With his North Georgia baseball team at the Comfort Suites Classic in Valdosta, Kenny Bellavance was eager to get his senior season started back in early February.
But in Game 2, as he squared to bunt, an inside pitch hit him directly on the knuckles and smashed his fingers into the bat. The result was two broken metacarpal bones, one that was grotesquely displaced, and a prognosis of nearly two months away from baseball.
"It was not the way I wanted to start (my senior season)," Bellavance said. "But if you told me that I had to be injured, I'd rather get hurt the first half of the season instead of the second half of the season."
The Parkview grad had surgery to repair the breaks and insert a pin, but returned quicker than expected. In roughly a month, he was back in the lineup.
There was a little discomfort for the first few games, but he said that is behind now as the Saints ready for the season's stretch run.
"I'm glad that's healed up and the pain is pretty much gone now," Bellavance said.
Back in the lineup, the outfielder now hopes he can spark a turnaround season for his team. North Georgia, a perennially strong contender in the Peach Belt Conference, has struggled with a young lineup for much of the season.
Bellavance is one of only three seniors on a team that is 10-18 overall and 3-9 in the conference. He has done his part, hitting .417 with eight RBIs in his 11 games entering this weekend.
"We're doing OK," said Bellavance, who has a 3.97 GPA and serves as president of North Georgia's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee executive board. "We're struggling in conference. We've ran into some pretty good teams. But I think we can turn it around. ... I'd love for us to reel off some conference wins and get into the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. It's always fun to participate in the tournament. The atmosphere is so great. And once you get in, anyone can win it."
Among North Georgia's young players, several locals are faring well.
Brookwood's Tremayne Toorie is the team's top power hitter with four home runs and 22 RBIs, both team highs. He has a .303 batting average. Teammate Travis Naraine of Parkview is hitting .311 with eight RBIs.
Two young pitchers from Gwinnett, Brandon Agar of Brookwood and Chip Fleming of Parkview, also have been solid with the two lowest ERAs on the staff. Agar is 4-3, the team leader in wins, with a 3.99 ERA and two saves. Fleming has a team-low 3.77 ERA with a save in nine relief appearances.
Swan wins NCAA Elite 89 Award
Brookwood grad and Florida Southern swimmer Robbie Swan was named a recipient of the prestigious NCAA Elite 89 Award this week.
The award is given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA who is competing at the finals site for each of the 89 NCAA championships. The junior maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Swan also earned five All-American honors this season in helping Florida Southern to a national runner-up finish.
Squeglia posts strong outing
Collins Hill grad Nick Squeglia won his 14th career game this week, pitching Georgia State to a victory over Alabama State.
The senior right-hander allowed just one run and three hits in eight innings Wednesday. He struck out five batters and retired the last 19 batters he faced.
Squeglia (3-0) is now ninth in Panthers' history in career pitching victories.
Marksberry sets points record
Collins Hill grad Carly Marksberry, a freshman at Newberry College, already has broken the young program's career points record in her debut college season.
Marksberry has 17 goals and 15 assists for a team-best 32 points. Teammate Noelle Allen of Mill Creek has 16 goals.
Quinn gets conference honor
Oglethorpe senior Eric Quinn was named the Southern Athletic Association's golfer of the week on Thursday.
The Norcross grad earned the award after tying for first place, and eventually falling short in a three-hole playoff, at the Camp Lejeune Championship. He shot 75, 65 and 69 in the three-round tourney, helping Oglethorpe to the team title.
Locals shine for Newberry
Peachtree Ridge's Gabby Bedard, Duluth's Casey Nellums and Buford's Lanier Paul helped Newberry to a doubleheader sweep of Wingate last weekend.
Bedard was 6-for-7 in the two games, reaching base seven straight times, including being hit by a pitch. She scored three runs and upped her batting average to .365. Nellums had two hits and an RBI in the opener, along with another RBI single in the nightcap, and Paul also had an RBI single in Game 2.
Nellums, at second base, had two assists and five putouts in the second game, including two phenomenal defensive plays to kill rallies --a diving, over-the-shoulder grab in shallow center field and a diving stop of a line drive later in the game.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.