By CHIP CIRILLO
When Will Gaddis outdueled one of the nation’s top pitching prospects during his senior year at Brentwood, lots of people in the baseball world took notice.
When Will Gaddis went to a Furman baseball camp as a high school freshman, he got coach Ron Smith’s attention.
When Gaddis outdueled one of the nation’s top pitching prospects during his senior year at Brentwood, lots of people in the baseball world took notice.
When his cutter zooms into the middle of the strike zone before dropping abruptly into the left-handed batter’s box, Southern Conference hitters quickly learn what his best pitch is.
Gaddis is a modest sophomore, but he commands attention anytime he steps on the mound.
“It is my opinion that he is the best pitcher in our league this year,” Smith said. “I think his competitiveness and composure (make him the best) and obviously he’s gifted with a very good arm as well.”
Smith believes Gaddis’ command of his pitches makes him an elite pitcher.
He keeps hitters off-balance by throwing his fastball in and out with a cutter, a slider and a developing changeup.
Gaddis went to a Furman camp during the fall of his freshman year at Brentwood.
“We were very, very impressed as much with his composure as anything,” Smith said. “He’s athletic and he’s got a lot of things going for him.”
Gaddis (10-3) leads the conference in wins and innings pitched with 101-2/3.
He ranks in the top five in strikeouts (92), walks (20), earned run average (3.45) and opposing batting average (.249).
The most memorable game in Gaddis’ high school career came at the end of his senior year when he outdueled future Vanderbilt pitcher Donny Everett in a 1-0 Class AAA Sectional win for Brentwood.
Gaddis was the lesser-known pitcher, but he fired a three-hit shutout in eight innings that sent the Bruins to the state tournament.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Gaddis said. “I’ll never forget that game. Going into it, we were like, ‘Oh, we have to play Donny.’ The kid’s throwing probably 90s (mph) consistently with one of the better sliders in the nation. … We came out on top and that will be the one game that I’ll remember forever.”
It was Everett’s only loss in 12 games that year. Three weeks later, Gaddis was drafted in the 36th round by the New York Yankees although he opted to play at Furman.
“It was crazy to watch all the pro scouts there quickly turn their (radar) guns on Gaddis,” former Brentwood outfielder Aaron Maher said. “Donny was pretty dominant in the game, but then they realized we’ve got this guy on the mound for Brentwood that is matching him inning for inning. He ended up actually going longer than Donny. I’m pretty sure that’s what got Will drafted that year.”
The win sent Brentwood to the state tournament for the second straight year.
“Donny Everett came in as advertised, and he and Will did not disappoint,” Bruins coach Bill Moore said. “Will was a great competitor on the mound for us, and would put on a clinic on going after and attacking hitters.”
Maher and Gaddis met again in opposite dugouts in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament when Gaddis threw a four-hit shutout in Furman’s 3-0 win over East Tennessee State on May 25. Maher got one of ETSU’s hits.
“I remember last year was the first time I ever pitched to him,” Gaddis said. “Once he stepped in the box I kind of looked at him and I was like, ‘Man, I’ve never done this, pitched against my best friend.’ He’s doing really well, too.”
Furman is 28-28 after going 16-12 in the conference.
Gaddis has improved his stamina, going later in games this season.
His fastball has been clocked in the 90-94-mph range.
Gaddis is Furman’s Friday starter, pitching the first game of each series.
“It’s awesome,” Gaddis said. “Everyone is usually pretty pumped up for the first game of the series. Hopefully (I) just set a tone for the rest of the weekend.”
One of Gaddis’ Furman teammates is infielder Deon Sanders, a former Centennial standout who also plays football for the Paladins.
“I think this was ranked as one of the most rigorous schools in America,” Gaddis said. “To be a two-sport athlete is something I don’t think I’d be able to do, but he is actually handling it really well and he’s been a huge impact on our team. He’s one of those guys you just want in your clubhouse. He’s always cheering people up, always rooting his team on.”
Gaddis hopes he will be drafted again after next season.
“I would be shocked if he comes back for his senior year,” Smith said. “We’d love to have him back because he’s a really good teammate, but if he has an opportunity at pro ball he might want to take it. I don’t know.
“I really think he’s going to have a chance to play professional baseball. (Scouts) are fully aware of his potential. A number of professional organizations ask about him. I’ll take 35 guys like him and we’ll win a lot of games.”
Clarksville’s Donny Everett, who was pitching for Vanderbilt this season, died June 2 in a drowning accident.