LMA outfielder Carlton signs with Salkehatchie

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Student-athletes make decisions on where they would like to play collegiately using various criteria. For Laurence Manning Academy baseball player Aaron Carlton, it came down to familiarity.

Carlton, an outfielder for the Swampcats, has signed to play with the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie in Allendale. And there are many familiar reasons for his decision.

"First, it's a little bit closer to home," Carlton said. "It's a lot more familiar to me since I played there a few times through (American) Legion ball. And I like the way the coaches want to look out for the players, not only in sports, but academics and life."

Carlton is excited to be getting the opportunity to play at the next level.

"It means a lot," he said. "It's been a goal for me for a long time, with my family and friends pushing me hard to get to next level. Now that I'm getting the opportunity, it's amazing."

Carlton was batting .429 for LMA when its season was shut down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. He had a tremendous junior year for the Swampcats, batting .420 with one home run, eight doubles, 24 runs batted in and 24 runs scored. He led the team in hits, doubles, RBI and runs.

Laurence Manning head coach Barry Hatfield said Salkehatchie will be getting a great hitter in Carlton.

"He has a good arm, above average speed, but the kid can hit really swing it," Hatfield said. "The bigger the spot, the better he is. He doesn't back down."

Carlton had an offer from Clarks Summit University, an NCAA Division III school in Pennsylvania. Members of the coaching staff saw him playing at a showcase tournament and began talking to him. He really liked the staff, but decided it was just too far away.

"When all of this COVID-19 stuff came up, I just thought 10 hours away was a little too far," he said.

Also, the fact that Salkehatchie, a junior college that is a member of Region X, is coached by former Manning High School player and coach and USC Sumter assistant coach Jeremy Joye helped in his decision as well.

"I really like the way he coaches and the way he is as a person," Carlton said. "I met him through Coach Hatfield. I didn't know him when he was in Manning. I just like the style of his coaching. It's a lot like what we have at Laurence Manning."

Carlton is also going to have three teammates at Salkehatchie with whom he is very familiar. Manning High School players Camryn Watford, Trevin Harrison and Sean Charles will be attending Salkehatchie as well.

"That's definitely going to help a lot," said Carlton, who has had all three as teammates. "This is a whole new situation for us, and we're going to look out for each other and make sure we make smart decisions."