Higgenbottom signs with USCA

JoJo Higgenbottom has been rounding the bases at North Augusta High School for three seasons, and has now punched his ticket to play for USC Aiken.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder signed the paperwork Thursday at the high school, confirming his Pacer play plans.

"It's a good school, a good program, and close to home, and everything just kind of fell into place when they offered me," the 18-year-old North Augusta native said.

"They were the last ones to offer me, and I just kind of fell in love with it instantly, after my visit there."

He has served mainly at first base for the Yellow Jackets, and is getting encouragement to consider third for the Pacers. "I guess I might have a shot at first, but either way they want me, I can play."

He also received offers from North Greenville College, Lander University and Erskine College, and had also been in communication with Brevard College, USC Sumter, Darlington Tech and Gray Military Academy, a new school taking shape in Columbia.

Baseball has been a Higgenbottom pursuit for "about as long as I could walk," he recalled. "Basically, it's been a part of my life ever since I can remember."

His batting average in 2012 was about .375, with two homers and "20-plus" RBIs in the mix. Highlights in recent months included being named as the most valuable player of the Palmetto Games, a competition featuring top players from travel teams around the state, he said.

Recruiting coordinator Jason Walck, an assistant coach with USCA, credited Higgenbottom with "good experience" and "obviously coming from a good program," with solid experience in travel-team action.

"He's certainly one of the better hitters in the area. For our program, that's always seemed to be a strong point, and he has the chance to jump in there right away and really please us with the offensive bat that he can provide."

Higgenbottom said he is looking to improve his speed and continue getting stronger. "They recruited me because I can hit. I've got to stay in the cage and keep hitting."

He estimated that the Pacers, this year, have signed 14 recruits. "From what I've heard, they've got a lot of seniors, so they'll be bringing in a good bit of people."

Walck said Higgenbottom represented a chance for the Pacers to haul in a talented player without having to look far afield. "We've got a good one in him, and he's right around the block."

Higgenbottom confirmed high expectations for the Pacers. "I want to go ahead and promise four national championships and bring those rings back to Aiken County. Get off the track, because the freight train's coming from North Augusta."