River Bluff baseball coach Mark Bonnette doesn’t think Brandon Tillmon has reached his full potential yet.
That is a scary thought for the rest of the Gators’ opponents this season.
Tillmon, the River Bluff senior, is off to one of his best starts of his career, and continued that Tuesday on the opening day of the Forest Acres Classic at A.C. Flora High.
The outfielder/pitcher homered and drove in four runs in the Gators’ 16-8 come-from-behind win over Hanover (Va.).
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For the year, Tillmon is hitting .488 with five homers and 31 RBI, both tops in the Midlands. He also has three wins as a pitcher.
“Brandon is very talented, and if he can continue to play within himself and doing the right things, the sky is the limit,” Bonnette said. “I don’t think Brandon has reached his potential by any means. We’ve just got to keep coaching, keep him doing the right things and he is going to be very special.”
Tillmon’s performance on the diamond adds to an already stellar senior campaign. In football, he was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl after accounting for more than 2,300 yards of offense and 25 touchdowns. He also recorded four sacks on defense and will be playing safety next season at Liberty.
Tillmon also averaged 10.5 points a game on the basketball court after not playing his junior year. He said playing basketball didn’t take away from him getting ready for baseball season.
“It didn’t set me back,” Tillmon said. “With how baseball schedule works, we have a baseball PE class, so I still was able to throw my bullpens and throw and do drills with the team and hit in the cages.
“We have a great team this year, and everyone is clicking on the same page and working on same goal.”
River Bluff is 12-2 on the year and is ranked No. 7 in Class 4A in the latest South Carolina Baseball Coaches poll.
Tillmon said he’s been a little surprised on his start this season, but is keeping a simple approach at the plate.
“One of my friends said a full head is an empty bat. The more you think, the less likely you are to hit,” Tillmon said.
Bonnette credits Tillmon recognizing pitches early this year and not getting anxious at the plate.
It also helps having a strong supporting cast in front and behind him in the lineup, so teams might have trouble avoiding him in the lineup. Patrick Manley, Walker McDowell, Aaron Adams and Will Bradford all entered the week hitting better than .300. As a team, the Gators were hitting .322.
“Our lineup – one through nine – is pretty good, especially the top end,” Bonnette said. “When we get all those guys hitting at one time, it is tough to pitch around him because the guy behind him can hit, too. If we can keep those guys on the bases in front of him, and make it hard to pitch around him, we have a chance to have a pretty good year.”
Forest Acres Classic
Dutch Fork 20, Lakewood 0
Sumter 4, Leesville Road 1
River Bluff 16, Hanover (Va.) 8
A.C. Flora 5, Dematha Catholic 3