Grayson Throneberry made playing high school baseball look like child’s play.
On a typical youth baseball team the best player bats third and splits time between shortstop and pitcher.
That’s what Throneberry did in his senior season for the Austin Black Bears. He hit .308 with 14 extra base hits and a team high 28 RBIs out of the third spot in the batting order. He flashed leather in the field at the key defensive position of shortstop. When he wasn’t playing short, Throneberry starred on the mound going 6-2 with four saves while allowing 16 earned runs in 48 innings.
It was that kind of consistent performance that has earned Thorneberry The Daily’s Class 5A-7A Player of the Year honor.
“I can’t say enough good things about Grayson and what he’s meant to this program,” Austin coach Tyler Stephenson said. “Every day you knew what you were getting out of Grayson and that was a total commitment to helping the team be successful.”
Stephenson became the Austin head baseball coach in 2015. The program had last been in the state playoffs in 2009. It was a rebuilding project where young talent got a fast track to the varsity. Throneberry was one of the few who got a taste of the varsity as a freshman. He was starting at shortstop as a sophomore.
“It was tough at first, but a lot of us had been successful together playing travel ball,” Throneberry said. “We knew we could be successful in high school.”
Austin won 13 games in 2016, 22 in 2017 and a spot in the playoffs in 2018 with 24 wins. The first trip to the playoffs in nine years ended with a hard-fought loss to eventual Class 6A state champion Hazel Green.
The Black Bears moved up to 7A in 2019 and found the competition to be fierce. Despite improving the win total to 26, Austin failed to make the playoffs.
Bob Jones won the Area 8 championship and advanced all the way to the 7A championship series. Bob Jones and area runner-up Florence combined to have nine players on the 7A All-State first and second teams. Many of those players have signed or are committed to Southeastern Conference schools.
“We have always played a lot of 7A teams, and we knew moving up would be tough,” Throneberry said. “The pitching in 7A is much more consistent. Every team has great pitching.”
Throneberry signed last fall to play for the University of North Alabama. The Lions just finished their first season as a NCAA Division I program.
“I really felt welcomed every time I visited over there,” Throneberry said. “Starting my sophomore year, they will be a full-fledged Division I program, and can compete for a trip to the College World Series.”
Right now the plans are for Throneberry to stick to one position, and that’s shortstop.
“I know when I get to college that nothing will be given,” Throneberry said. “I’m going to have to fight for my position.”