DOVER — Division I schools looking to land a dual-threat in next year's baseball recruiting class may just want to keep their eye on Conner Andrews.
The Dover resident and Portsmouth Christian Academy senior tore up the IMG Academy Wooden Bat League this summer, proving he's more than capable of excelling at the national level.
Pitching and playing first base, Andrews led his team — the Conquistadors — in wins, earned-run average, batting average and RBIs. On the mound, he went 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA. In 35.1 innings he allowed nine earned runs, walked just six, and fanned 26.
At the plate, Andrews finished with a .410 batting average, a .492 slugging percentage, and a .456 on-base percentage (. 948 OPS). In 69 at-bats he had 25 hits (five doubles), 19 RBIs, and scored 16 runs.
"I struggled with the wood (bats) at first, but I after a few games I started feeling really comfortable with it," Andrews said. "Pitching-wise, things went great. I threw the ball well and I learned a lot that will help me going forward."
IMG is a multi-sport education/ training facility located in Bradenton, Florida, that offers boarding, non-boarding, and weekly programs for current and intending professional athletes. It's owned and controlled by the talent management company IMG (International Marketing Group) and consists of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, and the IMG Academy baseball program, IMG Academy basketball program, IMG Academy soccer program, IMG Academy Lacrosse program and IMG Football Academies.
The 300-acre, gated campus includes 58 tennis courts, multiple baseball fields, turf training fields, seven soccer fields, indoor basketball facilities, performance facilities, gyms, clubhouses, and the IMG Academy Country Club. It has two cafeterias (one for adults and professionals and one for students) and has an on-campus deli for students. There is one small pool for students and two other pools for adult and resident use only.
"The place is amazing," Andrews said. "You've got so many different things going on around you — it's pretty much like an athlete's dream."
After spending a week at IMG this past winter, Andrews quickly decided he wanted to take part in its eight-week summer league. The decision turned out to be a good one. Not only did Andrews take part, he took claim.
Upon arrival, Andrews and the other 119 players showed off their skills in a "tryout". The coaches then deliberated and split the players up into six teams. Andrews landed on the Conquistadors, managed by IMG junior varsity baseball coach Jason Elias.
"(The atmosphere) was kind of like what I'm expecting from college," Andrews said. "You're playing and hanging out with a whole new group of guys — so you try to fit in and prove yourself. It was good preparation in that respect."
Andrews' schedule didn't allow for much down time.
"It was baseball all day, every day," he said. "A perfect summer."
The Conquistadors met for three practices/training sessions a day, and played 23 games over the eight-week period. Despite a valiant effort, they lost in the championship game.
"We had a great group of guys," Andrews said. "Everyone became friends, and we played some really good baseball together."
Andrews also received some valuable teaching on how to approach the game of baseball.
"One of the biggest things I took away from IMG was the day-in, day-out approach you have to take with this game," he said. "It doesn't matter if you go 0 for 4 or 4 for 4 in a game — you have to enter the next one knowing it's a fresh slate. Never be satisfied, and always keep working."
After proving he could hang with the best high school athletes from across the country, Andrews now has his sights set on earning a college scholarship.
"I took a lot away from IMG," he said. "I'm going to use all that and keep working to become the best player I can be."
Andrews helped lead PCA to its first baseball championship in school history this past spring. He went 7-2 on the mound, batted .345, and was named First Team All-State in Class S.