Tattnall Square didn’t have its brightest day on May 29.
The Trojans lost to FPD in the GISA Class AAA championship series, denying them a third consecutive state baseball championship.
The defeat on the diamond, however, wasn’t Tattnall’s biggest loss that day.
DeAndre Smelter, the senior who meant so much in so many different sports to the Trojans’ program, had donned a Tattnall uniform for the final time.
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“He has meant so much to the school,” Tattnall head baseball coach Joey Hiller said after the loss to FPD. “It’s going to be hard to imagine him not playing a sport here.”
Smelter, The Telegraph’s Boys Athlete of the Year, has terrorized GISA schools for most of the past four years in three different sports. He led Tattnall teams to three state championships, five state championship games and seven appearances in the semifinals. He was offered major college scholarships in two sports — baseball and football — despite not playing the latter as a senior.
He signed with Georgia Tech for baseball and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins.
“He’s one of the best athletes we’ll ever see in this area,” FPD head baseball coach Jim Turner said prior to the championship series. “There just aren’t many like him.”
Smelter is the first ever two-time winner of the Selby Buck Award for the top athlete in Middle Georgia. He previously won the award as a sophomore when he led both the Tattnall baseball and football teams to state championship. During his time at Tattnall, he was named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Football Player of the Year in 2008, the GISA Basketball Player of the Year in 2007-08 and 2009-10 and the GISA Baseball Player of the Year in 2008 and 2010.
Regardless of that history, Smelter won the award this year specifically for his performance during the 2009-10 school year.
Smelter began the year by forgoing his senior football season to concentrate on fall baseball. With scholarship offers on the table from Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech and LSU among others, some questioned Smelter’s decision to skip the football season. But the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior never thought twice about his decision.
He brought a renewed aggression to the basketball court after skipping football season for the first time that he could remember. That time off resulted in Smelter’s best season on the court.
Smelter led the Trojans to the state championship game. He scored 21 of his team’s 41 points, including the game-winning tip-in, in a semifinals’ win over Mount Vernon Presbyterian. The Trojans lost to a more-talented Deerfield-Windsor squad in the championship game.
“He is such a joy to coach,” Tattnall head basketball coach Paul Brooks said. “He’s a winner, and he has the ability to put a team on his back and takeover. I’ve never coached an athlete like him, and I probably never will again.”
During the baseball season, Smelter helped the Trojans avoid a potential rebuilding season. On a team loaded with inexperience, Smelter took over during the latter parts of the season and helped give the Trojans a shot at a third straight state championship. Smelter hit better than .650 during the final six weeks of the season and added a GISA-best 10 home runs. On the mound, Smelter went 9-2 and led the GISA in ERA and strikeouts.
“I just don’t know if we’ll see anyone like him again,” Brooks said.
The Telegraph’s 2009-10 All-Middle Georgia Players of the Year:
GHSA Football: Nick Marshall, Wilcox County
GISA Football: Ryan Smith, FPD
Softball: Kourtny Thomas, Houston County
Boys Cross Country: Dylan Swafford, CFCA
Girls Cross Country: Grace Tinkey, FPD
Boys GHSA Basketball: Nick Marshall, Wilcox County
Girls GHSA Basketball: Tai Brown, Northside
Boys GISA Basketball: DeAndre Smelter, Tattnall
Girls GISA Basketball: Anna Claire Knight, Trinity Christian
Wrestling: Logan Winkles, Upson-Lee
Swimming: Brett Niemantsverdiet, Houston County
Golf: Chase Reeves, Covenant
Boys Track: Travis Richmond, Peach County
Girls Track: Sarah Howard, Trinity Christian
Boys Tennis: Becker O’Shaughnessey, Stratford
Girls Tennis: Liza Klyachkin, Stratford
Boys Soccer: Tyler Daly, Warner Robins
Girls Soccer: Allie Hale, Stratford
GHSA Baseball: Kelcey Butts, Central
GISA Baseball: DeAndre Smelter, Tattnall
Scholar-Athlete: Cameron Jones, Westside
Girls Athlete of the Year: Grace Tinkey, FPD
Boys Athlete of the Year: DeAndre Smelter, Tattnall