Fort Mill Sports

When an 8th grader gets the call, he better be ready. Clover High found a young catch.

Oakridge Middle student Jack Killelea, shown in a recent game against Northwestern, was ready for his chance when he was needed by the Clover High varsity.
Oakridge Middle student Jack Killelea, shown in a recent game against Northwestern, was ready for his chance when he was needed by the Clover High varsity. Courtesy of Randi Killelea

It’s good to have options.

Clover’s varsity baseball team knew it had reinforcements, but may not have counted on one it found – an eighth-grader.

Due to the loss of starting players on the varsity team, catcher and Oakridge Middle student Jack Killelea got the call to suit up for the Blue Eagles as the season wound down recently. Clover coach Hank Wofford acknowledged that, while the circumstances surrounding the call-up may not have been ideal, Killelea hit the ground running.

“We did have a couple of injuries that led to Jack Killelea being called up at the end of our season,” said Wofford. “Jack did a great job of preparing each day and showed ability to handle the position at the varsity level. “

It’s not terribly common for an eighth-grader to make an impact at the varsity level, even with what Wofford described as a young team. The more one hears from Killelea’s coach, the more one realizes that this is not an average eighth-grader.

“As a head coach, that is the first time that we have started an eighth-grader on the varsity team,” stated Wofford. “There was no concern in my mind of putting him in that position. Jack is well beyond his years in his awareness and confident level. He was prepared and it showed.”

Part of that preparation comes from Killelea’s time in the Oakridge and Clover JV programs. Much of Clover’s future success on the diamond will be determined by the players now in those programs, and some of it has already begun. The Golden Eagles won the 2017 York County Middle School Athletic Conference tournament title, and this year added a regular-season title to another tournament crown.

“Oakridge had a heck of a year in winning the regular season and conference tournament in their league,” said Wofford.“We are lucky to have two middle school baseball teams (Clover Middle being the other) that feed into one high school.”

The Clover junior varsity finished strong, as well, winning two of its final three games. Killelea returned to the JV Blue Eagles for the team’s final two contests.

The varsity Blue Eagles struggled a bit in 2018, but Wofford is confident that great things are ahead for his club.

“I am looking forward to see this group grow and improve over the next several years. We certainly had some growing pains this year, but the future is bright,” said Wofford.

When Killelea steps onto Clover’s ninth-grade campus next season, the odds are good that he will do so as a full-time member of the varsity. The young receiver’s audition seems to have gone according to plan.

“I was pleased with Jack's play at the varsity level especially from a defensive standpoint,” said Wofford. “He has a bright future at Clover, and I am excited to see it unfold.”

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