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Versatile Nick Cooper gives SEHS baseball options
Nick Cooper
South Effingham's versatile Nick Cooper doesn't mind playing where ever he's needed. (Donald Heath for the Effingham Herald)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


GUYTON – South Effingham utility infielder Nick Cooper can still turn to the Internet to see his pitching profile on Perfect Game, a website that promotes youth baseball statistics.

Cooper was 10 years old when he pitched for his travel team. According to Perfect Game, the then 4-foot-10, 90-pounder ran his fastball up to plate at 49 mph.

“That was the last time I pitched, so it’s been a while,” said Cooper, laughing.

He admits he was also laughing when Mustangs baseball coach Jesse Osborne pointed in his direction to pitch out of a jam in extra innings in the season opener with Screven County.

“We thought (Osborne) was coming to talk to the pitcher to settle him down, but he pointed to me,” said Cooper, who immediately looked at teammate Dru Futch for confirmation.

Does this mean I’m pitching?

“The first thing Dru did was start laughing. Then I started laughing,” Cooper said.

But no one was joking. Cooper is South Effingham’s Swiss Army Knife. The senior, who has grown to 5-foot-5, can play anywhere in the infield and recently found out he’s also the emergency catcher – something he did in a pinch as a junior varsity player.

And apparently, he’s No. 10 on the pitching depth chart, too.

Osborne and his coaching staff scripted the season opener as a scrimmage with a tournament coming up on the weekend. The Mustangs hoped to use one pitcher an inning against Screven.

Then the game went to extra innings. Osborne summoned his tournament starter to pitch in the seventh to get out of a jam but Screven tied the game.

Free baseball suddenly meant SEHS’ pitching rotation was going to pay.

“We had to go off script and the only guy we had left was Cooper,” Osborne said. “He’s a kid who throws BP in the cages and the kids love him. I told him, ‘I need you to throw it over the plate and make something happen.’”

“Yes, sir,” Cooper said.

Cooper threw it over the plate and the Screven batter hit a screaming line drive right at Futch, who turned it into an unassisted double play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, South rallied for three runs – the tying runs coming on Cooper’s two-run double – and won 5-4, making Cooper the winning pitcher for the first time in a while.

“You can’t go without saying how crucial it is to have someone like that,” Osborne said. “Nick can play anywhere and we’re lucky to have him. He’s a big part of this team. Kind of the heartbeat of the team. We feed off him and his energy.”

Cooper played basketball in middle school, but bowed to his shortcomings.

“My height and basketball don’t really work together so I had to hang that up,” he admitted.

Baseball, however, has always been a big part of his life. He grew up playing in the front yard with his dad and his neighbors. Then on to recreation ball.

He watched his brother Phillip Cooper, who was three years older, star with Mustangs’ 2021 squad that tied a school record with 27 wins and advanced to the Elite Eight at state.

Last season, Nick broke into the SEHS’ starting lineup and has been a permanent fixture ever since – at least somewhere on the infield.

“Definitely, it’s nice that (Osborne) believes I can play any position,” Cooper said. “My first goal this year is to win region. Last year, we lost some games we never should have lost and that bumped us (down). 

“I think we’re doing a lot better (a 5-2 record coming into the week). But I don’t think any of us are satisfied. We still have a long way to go.”