From diamond to hardwood, Shady Spring’s Manns balances busy summer schedule

Balancing sports isn’t an uncommon practice for high school athletes throughout the summer.

For Shady Spring’s Cameron Manns, there was more to juggle than a change in mentality while playing baseball and basketball for much of June. A member of two North Carolina-based baseball travel teams, Manns also worked around a challenging travel schedule that meant some days on the diamond in the southeast and others in West Virginia playing for the Tigers on the hardwood.

“I’m all for both sports,” Manns said. “I love baseball and it’s definitely my favorite sport, but I love basketball, too. I’m going to make it to basketball every time I can.”

Manns is gaining invaluable experience as a member of the Gate City Titans and Carolina Ducks, the latter of which he joined this summer after showcasing his abilities with the Titans last summer. The Carolina Ducks are a college summer league squad, giving Manns an opportunity to play with and against older players with experience at a higher level.

“Last year was my first year with Gate City, and the organizer of the team wanted me to come play with their college team, so I’ve been playing with them,” Manns said. “I’ve been playing against college kids and getting the experience I need.”

Just last week, Manns was at Appalachian State on Monday and logged four scoreless innings with three strikeouts for the Ducks against what he described as “a bunch of college juniors and seniors and some guys that have graduated.”

He had little time to savor the successful outing on the mound.

The very next day, Shady Spring’s basketball program hosted its Tiger Shootout, with a quality nine-team field on hand that included: Bluefield, Greater Beckley Christian, Greenbrier East, Independence, Oak Hill, PikeView, Westside and Wyoming East.

Shady Spring’s Cam Manns has been an instrumental part of the Tigers’ state champion and runner-up basketball teams each of the last two seasons. Photo by Eddie Ferrari

That preceded Shady participating Thursday in the Red & Black Athletic Club Shootout at West Virginia State, where Manns was again on hand as the Tigers battled Winfield, Logan and Parkersburg South in Institute.

While Manns’ hope is to play baseball in college, the versatile forward recognizes the importance of what the three-week period means to the Tigers’ basketball team. Oddly enough, Manns, who was previously the quarterback for Shady’s football team, may have more free time than usual at this point in the calendar year. Barring a last minute change of heart, he will not play football as a senior.

Thus when the focus hasn’t been on baseball, Manns has been with the hoops squad, which which was within one play of repeating as Class AAA state champion in March. Instead, Fairmont Senior scored a last-second 60-59 victory that prevented the Tigers from capturing a second straight crown.

Considering Shady did not have a senior on that team, expectations are again high for what will be Manns and a host of others final season in a Tigers’ uniform.

Manns is one of five starters returning off a team that finished 25-2 last season for a program that has won 40 of 44 games since the start of the 2020-2021 campaign.

“Losing on a last-second buzzer beater hurts and makes you want to get back that much more and beat them again,” Manns said. “Hopefully we’ll be back in the same position and maybe against the same team, but we want to be better than what we did last year.”

Just last month, Manns and Shady made another appearance in a state tournament. Although it was a short stay for the Tigers’ baseball team, which fell to two-time defending state Class AA champion Logan in a semifinal, Manns earned the start at Appalachian Power Park.

He was a primary reason the Tigers were one of the final four teams that remained. After beating Independence twice to win a sectional championship, Shady outlasted Bluefield in a thrilling three-game regional series.

The Tigers finished 26-10 and Manns was 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA. He struck out nearly two batters an inning, fanning 75 in 39 1/3 frames, and was one of three pitchers named to the Class AA all-state team.

“I’ve opened up a lot of eyes,” Manns said, “and hopefully I open up a lot more in the future.”

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