Pope outfielder Nate Shipley was hoping he could get one more state title for the Greyhounds before moving on to the college ranks.
The coronavirus pandemic put an end to those dreams in March, however, when it was announced schools would close and athletic activities were suspended.
Shipley, though, did end his Pope career with an unexpected highlight.
On the day before everything shut down, the Greyhounds were on the road at Region 7AAAAAA rival Dunwoody, and they sealed a 6-2 victory with Shipley’s diving catch in right field.
When he found out about the closing of school the following day, there was hardly anything he could do or say.
“Nate’s been a three-year contributor for us on our team,” Pope coach Jeff Rowland said. “He’s been one of our clutch guys who has come through in big situations for us. He’s done it on the mound and on the outfield. I hated the season being cut short because he was getting hot and taking a leadership role. I would have loved to see how the year ended up for him.”
Pope was definitely a contender after winning back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018, while making it to the state championship series a year ago.
With Shipley hitting cleanup, the Greyhounds were 9-4 overall and 3-1 in region play before the season was halted and later canceled. He maintained a .300 batting average with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
“I wish I could have gotten out there and competed again for another (championship),” Shipley said. “It was great being around all the great players (at Pope) who helped me become a better player and better person. The coaches are one of the best coaching staffs in the state, if not the nation.”
When Shipley was not homeschooling once the outbreak was in effect, he passed the time by playing golf, PlayStation and spending more time with family and friends.
After graduation, Shipley will prep for his next baseball chapter at Gordon State College in the central Georgia city of Barnesville.
He originally committed to USC Upstate, but he reopened his recruitment following a coaching change. Instead, he is heading to a junior college program that won the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association title a year ago and was 16-5 overall this year before the season halted.
“He’ll be a big contributor for them,” Rowland said. “He swings back well and plays good defense. I think he will step right in. I wish nothing but the best for him, for sure.”