Heidelberg humbles PCA in Game 1

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 13, 2004

Porters Chapel Academy freshman Michael Busby is the “future” of Eagle baseball. The Eagles are scheduled to host Heidelberg on Friday at 4:30 p.m.(The Vicksburg Post)

[5/13/04]Every baseball player ends up with a nickname at one time or another, and Michael Busby is no exception. His Porters Chapel Academy teammates have started calling him “Freshman.”

For some people, it would be an insulting reminder that they haven’t earned their stripes yet. In Busby’s case, it might be to remind his teammates that he is, in fact, only in the ninth grade.

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Busby, a shortstop and pitcher, has hit .448 this season with two home runs, four triples, 33 RBIs, and 46 runs scored. Batting in the No. 2 hole, he has been an offensive sparkplug for the Eagles all season and is a big reason why they are playing Heidelberg for their second straight state championship.

“He’s got the poise of a senior, and he’s done a great job for us all year long,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “We expected that of him, because I knew what kind of athlete he is and know what kind of mentality he has. He’s cool as a cucumber.”

After Busby hit a grand slam to seal the deciding Game 2 of last week’s South State championship series a home run that capped a 4-for-5, six-RBI performance Wright pointed at Busby as he rounded third and said, “There’s the future.”

For Wright, it was about time it arrived. He’s been waiting for three years.

Busby first gained notice when he helped the Culkin Critters to two Dizzy Dean World Series appearances and three Dizzy Dean state championships. He worked out with PCA’s high school team in 2002 before playing the season with the junior varsity, and was touted as a possible starter at shortstop before last year’s state championship run.

The 2003 PCA squad needed a shortstop, and Busby’s slick fielding would have been a welcome addition.

Instead, feeling he wasn’t ready yet, Busby opted for another year of JV ball.

“The summer helped a lot too, to get ready,” Busby said, adding that he didn’t feel he was physically ready for high school ball. “It’s definitely better for me, because it’s more competitive in high school than in JV That’s why I sat out. This year I kind of felt like I was ready.”

Besides his hitting, Busby has also been a solid pitcher for the Eagles. With an 85 mph fastball and devastating curveball, he has gone 7-0 with 70 strikeouts and a 0.84 ERA in 33 innings. He has allowed only four earned runs.

He spent most of the season as the team’s No. 3 starter behind seniors Ryan Hoben and Justin Boler, and moved into a relief role for the playoffs.

In his only postseason appearance so far, he slammed the door on Franklin in Game 2 of the South State series by pitching 2 1/3 innings of effective relief to pick up his first save. In his time on the hill, he struck out four batters and allowed one run.

He also made a great diving catch at shortstop, stealing a base hit from Franklin’s John Armstrong in the fourth inning.

“He’s unbelievable right now, but if he keeps working there’s no telling how good he can be,” Hoben said. “It’s a big step from junior high to high school, and he’s made that jump as a freshman.”

Busby’s arm, as well as his overall athletic ability, have already inspired other legends at the school.

In two seasons as a quarterback, wide receiver, running back, and defensive back, he helped PCA’s junior high football team to a 16-0 record. In his eighth-grade year, the first-string defense didn’t allow a single point.

He also served as the team’s kicker. The offense was so efficient he rarely got a chance to kick field goals in a game, but he did boot a 53-yarder in practice.

Wright has often said he feels Busby has the potential to be among the best all-around athletes to ever come from Warren County, and opposing coaches are shocked to learn that they’ll have to face him for another three years.

It’s not too bad for a guy who isn’t far removed from playing youth baseball. Busby won’t turn 15 until later this summer.

“It’s hard to believe he’s only 14,” Wright said. “He could be in the eighth grade. He’s eighth-grade age, and probably should be in eighth grade, or playing up now.”

Busby just shakes off all of the hype and attention, and tries to let his actions on the field speak for themselves.

“I don’t think about stuff like that,” Busby said. “No matter if I’m a freshman or whatever, I’ve got to do my job out there. They don’t look at me like a freshman. I’ve got to do my job even if I’m a senior.”

“Everybody caved. Nobody’s head was straight and ready to play tonight,” said PCA infielder Chip Lofton, who singled in the fourth inning for one of the Eagles’ two hits. “Porters Chapel baseball stayed in Vicksburg today. We don’t know what happened.

“Everybody came out here and everybody’s mind was on something else. Nobody was focused to play.”