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Boys Athlete of the Week: North Hall's Preston Graham

POSTED: March 26, 2013 9:29 p.m.

North Hall senior Preston Graham is first and foremost a pitcher, a probable ace at that, with a 4-1 record that includes a complete-game win over fellow Region 7-AAA contender Buford on Tuesday.

But he’s focused on being an all-around player in his final year at North Hall and in his upcoming collegiate baseball career at Piedmont College.

To that end, his performance March 20 in a 12-1 win over region opponent Dawson County was a very good sign.

“I just want to be able to become stronger as a player and pitcher,” he said. “And I might be getting some hitting time as well (at Piedmont).”

Graham hit the first home run of his high school career, a three-run blast in the first inning, and added a double late in the game. On top of that, he struck out a career-high 13 batters in five innings and allowed just two hits in the win.

For his efforts, Graham is The Times Athlete of the Week.

The senior added that his future college coach at Piedmont was there to witness the blast, which can only help the possibility of Graham splitting time as a pitcher and outfielder at the next level.

Regardless, he works hard at it all.

“He prepares year in and year out, day in and day out — he’s a very special player who competes his rear end off,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. ‘“We feel very confident giving him the ball every third game.

“And we like Preston in the nine-hole because he can do it all. He puts pressure on the defense, he’s quick and he has some pop in his bat. He’s not a home run hitter, but he can hit the gaps and he can even get one over the fence every once in awhile.”

Not your average ninth hitter in the lineup, but Graham is even more surprising on the mound. Where he excels, he said, is in throwing his dangerous 12 to 6 curveball in a traditional fastball count.

“When people think I’m coming with a fastball, and then I have the ability to throw a curve ball, that helps a lot,” he said.

It’s kind of ironic then that Graham, who can throw an 88-mph fastball of his own, was waiting on the traditional first-pitch fastball when he went up for his first at bat against Dawson County last week. He saw the pitch he was looking for, swung hard, and deposited the pitch over the left-field fence.

On the mound, he does a very good job of keeping hitters from being able to do just that.

His coach was long-winded when asked about the best pitching attributes of his southpaw.

“His ability to throw two pitches for a strike in any count, keep hitters off balance, and being left-handed with a good pickoff move,” Mongero said. “He’s able to slow down or eliminate the running game for a lot of teams.”

That’s if the hitters reach base at all, something that didn’t happen much earlier in the season against the senior.

In fact, Graham said he liked working backward in the count in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Buford — throwing the curveball is a good method to keep good hitters off balance.

“Especially seeing better hitters, that’s going to help a lot too,” he added.

The Trojans (11-1, 7-0) will see those same hitters again Wednesday for the second of three season meetings series against the Wolves (9-2, 6-1) in Buford.

Graham said he expects the game to be even tougher on the road, and with the opponent now knowing what to expect.

Of course, the senior southpaw is not one to be figured out so easily. He may not be able to bring out his curveball this time around with one of his teammates set to pitch, but he’s now shown that he possesses a little more pop then people might have expected.


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