After a stellar campaign from the start, Houston County’s Tanner Hall took his game to a level few will ever attain in the playoffs.
His performance helped lead the Bears to the GHSA Class AAAAA championship and earned him The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Baseball Player of the Year honor.
“This is definitely an honor, and it shows me how the hard work I put in this year can pay off,” Hall said. “This is one of the best places in the state for baseball and to be named the Middle Georgia Player of the Year is a big honor.”
In short, Hall was dominant.
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The senior finished his career in a Houston County uniform by going 9-1 with a microscopic 0.577 ERA. He struck out 79 in 60 2/3 innings pitched, while walking just 24. The left-hander was a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities and didn’t surrender a single earned run in the playoffs, on his way to earning back-to-back Game 3 victories in the semifinal and championship series.
The numbers are eye-popping, but it’s Hall’s method on the mound that makes him that much more unique. The best pitch in his repertoire is an offering that very few high school pitchers can throw consistently, much less master: the changeup.
Hall’s go-to off-speed pitch has hard sinking action, and he can attack hitters with it in any count to get an out.
“This year was probably the best that I’d thrown my changeup all of my life,” Hall said. “That definitely helped me out. I’m not throwing the ball 90 mph like the other guys on our staff, so I have to have that off-speed pitch. That changeup was definitely a big deal. It made my fastball look that much faster.”
The senior season payoff came on the heels of a frustrating junior campaign.
Hall was sidelined for more than a month thanks to a bout of mononucleosis, and he could only watch as Houston County was upset in the Region 2-AAAAA tournament, missing the state playoffs altogether. When the Bears regrouped to start 2016, Hall and his teammates were determined to put the past behind them.
“Honestly, I think we all had a broken heart last year,” Hall said. “Watching and knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it was definitely heartbreaking, but once we got back on the field this spring, we knew it was something special. It shows a lot about our resiliency and how we came together.”
His illness also came at the worst time for a baseball player hoping to impress college scouts. Hall dropped 20 pounds, and his velocity tumbled for much of the summer travel ball season. Many suitors chose to look in other directions, but Armstrong State stood by him.
When bigger programs came calling after Hall recovered and began dominating opposing hitters, he chose to remain loyal to the program that had been there all along, giving Armstrong State one of the best pitchers in the state.
“I’ve never been the one to change my mind when people ask me because that’s not who I am,” Hall said. “I felt like once I committed there and signed there, that’s where I should be at. They didn’t give up on me. They offered me a chance to play right away and I’m not really one to sit out and watch people.”
Armstrong State will also give Hall a chance to be a two-way player this fall after he hit .368 as the cleanup hitter with a pair of home runs.
The honors graduate finished his high school career with a 3.9 GPA and plans to work towards a degree in physical therapy.