Lowco stars make college plans official

The early signing period for sports other than football began Wednesday, and a number of student-athletes from around the Lowco made their college plans official by signing national letters of intent.

Among the higher-profile commitments were several NCAA Division I signings, including golfers Andrew Swanson (Clemson), Max Green (West Virginia), and Savannah Hylton (Furman), as well as May River baseball pitcher Darin Horn (Coastal Carolina), soccer standout Shania Diaz (Vanderbilt), and tennis star Davis Phillips (Dayton). Seven Hilton Head High student-athletes signed Thursday night — including five headed to the D1 level — and Beaufort High cross country star Marlon Belden (Georgetown) plans to sign Friday afternoon.

Here’s a look at all the signings from around the Lowco this week. If we missed any, please send them to LowcoSports@gmail.com.

Baseball

Darin Horn, MRHS (Coastal Carolina) — Horn hit a growth spurt that saw him shoot up five inches to 6-foot-2, and his fastball velocity hit the magic 90mph number in the process, leading to a deluge of offers. He was set for a breakout season last spring before COVID-19 cut the campaign short, but he still turned in a four-inning no-hitter with 11 strikeouts vs. Lake Marion and is poised for a big senior year.

Kyle Markowitz, HHIHS (USC Lancaster) — A left-handed hitting outfielder with wheels, Markowitz was penciled into the leadoff spot going into his junior season before the pandemic hit the pause button. When we see what he does in his senior year, the Lancers may have gotten a gem who can use the junior college as a stepping stone to a big-time program.

Basketball

Will McCracken, HHIHS (UNC Wilmington) — Before he has played a game for the Hilton Head Seahawks, McCracken makes it official that he will be a UNCW Seahawk next year. A transfer from Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller, McCracken is a 6-4, 175-pound, shooting guard who should be a star for coach Chane Brown’s team and hone his skills to step in and contribute for a UNCW team that has three senior guards on the roster.

Cross Country

Marlon Belden, BHS (Georgetown) — After a Class 4A runner-up finish as a junior, Belden’s senior season didn’t play out quite like he envisioned. Hampered by an offseason injury, Belden missed most of the season, but he worked his way back into the lineup to place 11th at the state meet and lead the Eagles to a third-place showing. Now he will take his talents to the nation’s capital to run for the Hoyas.

Golf

Sydney Bowes, MRHS (Berry) — The Class 4A individual runner-up and leader of the dominant state champion Sharks will get a chance to compete for NCAA Division III titles for the Vikings — and not too far from home in Rome, Georgia.

Max Green, HHCA (West Virginia) — In addition to starring for the Eagles, Green has been a standout on the state’s strong junior golf circuit for years. He is ranked the No. 2 junior in the state and should be able to contribute quickly for the Mountaineers.

Savannah Hylton, Island Academy (Furman) — Hylton hasn’t always been on the local radar because she doesn’t compete for a high school team, but the Paladins know exactly what they’re getting. The Hilton Head Island native is the top-ranked junior in South Carolina and ranks 28th in her recruiting class nationally, according to the American Junior Golf Association’s rankings.

Andrew Swanson, MRHS (Clemson) — Swanson came on strong at the end of his sophomore season, finishing second at the Class 3A state championship, but we didn’t get to see what he would do for an encore in 2020. With his decision to follow in the footsteps of fellow Lowco links star Bryson Nimmer and tee it up for the Tigers out of the way, look for a big senior campaign for the Sharks this spring. 

Soccer

Shania Diaz, HHP (Vanderbilt) — Another superstar who stays outside the local spotlight because she doesn’t play for a school team, Diaz is a dazzling attacking midfielder who has make her mark for Tormenta FC. She has made several Olympic Development Program teams, including one that competed in Costa Rica in 2019, and joins HHI native Abi Brighton on the Commodores’ roster.

Abbie Lainhart, HHIHS (Western Carolina) — The Seahawks knew Lainhart was special when she netted the game-winning goal to beat Eastside in the Class 4A state title game as a freshman in 2018, and she has been a consistent, steady performer ever since. Seahawks coach Kit Seelbach says Lainhart still has the ability to add to her skillset with the Catamounts.

Megan Spiehs, HHIHS (South Carolina) — Spiehs has been a standout for Tormenta FC and played with the Olympic Development Program in Costa Rica last year, but she was a Seahawk during the abbreviated 2020 season. The Gamecocks are getting a dangerous forward who can find an extra gear to slip behind defenders and knows how to finish. 

Softball

Peyton Rockwell, MRHS (Chowan) — Rockwell swings a big left-handed bat, hitting .483 with 14 RBIs in 58 at-bats as a sophomore before tearing it up at a .538 clip with seven RBIs in five games before her junior season was cut short. The consistently solid outfielder should be a nice addition for the NCAA Division II Hawks.

Giovana Rodriguez, MRHS (Belmont Abbey) — Rodriguez was an All-Lowco outfielder after hitting over .400 as a sophomore, and she was on her way to a big junior season before the COVID interruption. In just seven games in 2020, she was hitting .389 with three triples and 12 RBIs and will be a big right-handed bat for the Sharks in 2021 and the NCAA Division II Crusaders for the following four years.

Swimming

Cohen Bruner, HHIHS (Navy) — Bruner capped off a sensational high school career with four state titles in October and opted to continue his career at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he will swim for the Midshipmen. Bruner is one of the top freestyle sprinters in the nation in his age group and hopes to follow his father and qualify for the Olympics.

Caleb Eidson, HHCA (Lees-McRae) — Eidson has been a mainstay in the pool both for the Eagles and for Hilton Head Aquatics. Most recently, he repeated as SCISA state champion in the 50 and 100 freestyle, two events he is certain to specialize in for the Bobcats, who are currently ranked 23rd in NCAA Division II.

Tommy Hughson, HHIHS (U. of Chicago) — An outstanding high school career ended with four state titles for Hughson, who won the 200 IM and 500 freestyle and swam on two gold-medal relays. He will be a strong addition for the Maroon, who are a consistent top-10 team in NCAA Division III.

Mia Sinkiewicz, HHIHS (Southern Illinois) — Sinkiewicz was a major contributor to the Seahawks’ state runner-up finish, notching top-10 finishes in the 200 IM (9th) and 100 backstroke (7th) and swimming on the third-place 400 free relay and fifth-place 500 medley relay. She joins a Salukis team that finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference last season.

Tennis

Davis Phillips, HHCA (Dayton) — Phillips committed to the Flyers after getting the College GameDay treatment during his official visit, which coincided with ESPN filming on campus to highlight Dayton’s men’s hoops team. Phillips starred on Hilton Head High’s state championship team in 2018 before transferring to HHCA.

Volleyball

Madison Denny, HHP (Pfeiffer) — Denny was a first-team All-Region pick this season after racking up 191 kills and 33 blocks in just 55 sets for the Dolphins. At 6 feet tall, Denny would be the tallest player on the NCAA Division III Falcons’ current roster and will have a chance to make an immediate impact in the middle.

Caroline Malphrus, BCHS (Brevard College) — One of the Dolphins’ most versatile and consistent players, Malphrus did a little of everything for Battery Creek, leading the team in kills (75) and ranking second in digs (47) while adding 30 aces. She played a defensive specialist role for Lowcountry Volleyball Club, though, and at 5-7, that’s where she is likely to contribute for the NCAA Division II Tornados.

Chase Vaigneur, BA (Young Harris) — After winning a state title at BA as a junior, Vaigneur has a chance to get in on the ground floor — almost — of a brand-new NCAA Division II program in the North Georgia mountains. The Mountain Lions announced the addition of volleyball in 2019, but the team’s first season was postponed until this spring. Vaigneur’s versatility and her leadership skills should make her an asset to coach Jenny Michael’s young program.

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