High Schools

Beaufort's Gregory, Fickes among area athletes to sign early

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comNovember 14, 2013 

Carson Gregory knew for a long time where he would play baseball after high school.

He only had to wait a year to make it official.

The Beaufort High School senior signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play baseball for Winthrop. He was joined by classmate and longtime friend Josh Fickes, who signed his intent to play golf for Clemson.

"I saw a lot of my friends who were older than me sign last year and go on," said Gregroy, who committed to Winthrop last October. "Ever since then, I was like 'I can't wait to do that.'"

Several Beaufort County athletes also signed on the first day of early signing period.

At Bluffton High School, volleyball player Mackenzie Cooler signed with College of Charleston, softball player Courtney Smith signed with Limestone and golfer Kylie Nizolek signed with Queens University.

At Hilton Head Island High School, catcher Brandon Johnson signed to play baseball at University of Richmond and Andrew Dill to play baseball at Anderson University.

And at Hilton Head Prep, Mariana Gould signed her intent to play tennis at University of Georgia, Kelly Mengel to play tennis at Penn State and Toks Pedro signed to play golf at Rutgers.

Gregory missed the first two weeks of his junior season with a broken bone in his right hand. He appeared in nine games with a 1.89 ERA and struck out 42.

His recruitment was helped by more than two years playing for a travel team out of Mount Pleasant. He said he never wavered during the year after committing to Winthrop, excited to go where he is wanted.

Gregory expects to pay his dues in the bullpen, but wants to become a weekday starter or primary reliever early on.

"I hope I've got a good chance at it," he said. "I've just got to go put in all that work."

Fickes has been committed since Aug. 1, when Clemson coach Larry Penley called while Fickes was playing in the Carolinas Junior Championship in High Point, N.C.

He said he has talked with the Clemson coach about once a week since his commitment, mainly to ask questions about how the Tigers were playing. At Beaufort High on Wednesday, Fickes was joined by his family, high school coaches, Dataw Island director of golf David Britton and Mike Harmon, director of Golf at Secession.

"It was one of the best days of my life, probably," Fickes said.

Fickes had sent Clemson a questionnaire the previous fall but did not begin receiving serious interest until winning the South Carolina Golf Association Junior Championship at Country Club of Lexington with a birdie on the final hole.

After his commitment, Fickes teamed with Hilton Head Island's Andrew Orischak to win the South Carolina Junior Golf Association Tradition Four-Ball in October, with Fickes making a birdie on the second playoff hole to win to continue his year of dramatic victories.

"Just knowing that you've done it before is always key," Fickes said. "It sounds kind of cocky, but I've never lost a lead going into the final round."

Fickes said Penley liked his distance, fundamentals and positive attitude on the course. He had also talked to coaches from South Carolina, Winthrop and Duke.

Fickes started playing golf when he was 10 at Secession Golf Club with his father, Russ, a caddie at the club. Josh also began caddying during high school and also plays at Beaufort High's home course on Dataw Island and at The Golf Course at Pleasant Point, near his home.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND

At Hilton Head Island High School on Wednesday, a couple of Seahawks baseball players signed to play at the next level.

Catcher Brandon Johnson, a member of the 2012 Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette All-Area Team, will play for former major leaguer Tracy Woodson at Richmond University.

Johnson, a National Honor Society member, said academics were a factor in his choice of the Spiders.

"It just felt like the right thing for me," Johnson said. "I had a couple of other offers, but they just didn't feel right. Once I heard from Richmond and talked to the coaches, it felt right."

Johnson also considered Brevard, Anderson, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, The Citadel and the College of Charleston.

As satisfied as Johnson was with Richmond, Andrew Dill felt the same way about Anderson (S.C.) University.

"It seemed like the perfect match for me," Dill said, who will attend the same college as his head coach, Blair Carson.

Dill said he received interest from bigger schools like The Citadel and Furman, but they were only interested in Dill as a pitcher. Anderson made it known that he could play the field there, as well.

"I wanted to be able to play the game the way I wanted to," Dill said. "I fell in love with Anderson and the fact they would let me play both ways."

HILTON HEAD PREP

Three Dolphins signed letters of intent on Wednesday.

Mariana Gould was the No. 1 singles player on Hilton Head Prep's 14-0 SCISAA Class 3-A state championship team this fall. She will take her talents to the University of Georgia.

Kelly Mengel, who trains at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy, has signed to continue her career at Penn State University.

And golfer Toks Pedro, who trains at the Junior Players Golf Academy, will compete for Rutgers University.

BLUFFTON

Bluffton will hold its signing ceremony at noon Thursday.

All-State volleyball player Mackenzie Cooler will attend the College of Charleston, softball ace Courtney Smith is headed to Limestone College in Gaffney and golfer Kylie Nizolek will play for Queens University in Charlotte.

Mike McCombs contributed to this report.

AREA SIGNEES

Beaufort High

Josh Fickes, Clemson University, golf

Carson Gregory, Winthrop University, baseball

Bluffton (signing Thursday)

Mackenzie Cooler, College of Charleston, volleyball

Courtney Smith, Limestone College, softball

Kylie Nizolek, Queens University, golf

Hilton Head Island

Brandon Johnson, University of Richmond, baseball

Andrew Dill, Anderson University, baseball

Hilton Head Prep

Mariana Gould, University of Georgia, tennis

Kelly Mengel, Penn State University, tennis

Toks Pedro, Rutgers University, golf

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