By Wayne Grandy
MOULTRIE — Colquitt County High school athletic trainer Ryan Kebler happened to be looking at the visitors’ dugout between the fifth and sixth innings at Ike Aultman Field on Wednesday when Valdosta High junior varsity baseball player Colton Shaw was struck by an errant throw.
"I saw the ball hit him and he grabbed his head," Kebler said of the ninth-grader. "He took a couple steps and fell, and when I saw him fall, I knew it was serious."
Kebler was at Shaw's side within seconds and moments later members of the Colquitt County Emergency Medical Services team joined him.
An unidentified trauma nurse who was in the Valdosta stands also helped tend to the player.
Shaw was soon taken by an emergency medical helicopter to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where he remained in critical condition and on life support until dying around noon on Thursday.
"My heart goes out to the family," said Colquitt County High Principal Stephanie Terrell. "They have been in my prayers since I heard about the accident."
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Valdosta High Athletic Director Rance Gillespie told The Valdosta Daily Times. “It’s a terrible loss to our school and our baseball program. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Shaw family.
“We really appreciate the thoughts and prayers from the entire community.”
Valdosta High offered grief counseling for students Thursday and the VHS chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a prayer vigil on campus Thursday morning, said Jennifer Steedley with the Valdosta City Schools.
Shaw apparently was hit in the back of the head.
Colquitt County junior varsity coach Greg Tillery said Kebler got to Shaw "within 10 seconds."
"I think our response was good," Kebler said. "And I think our plan was good."
Kebler said Life Flight was called, "as soon as we determined the seriousness of it.
"It was just an accident, a freak thing."
Tillery said he and varsity assistant coach Jake Mobley met with the ninth-grade members of the Packers baseball team on Thursday morning, discussed the tragedy with them and told them grief counseling was available.
Packers varsity coach Tony Kirkland and the rest of his staff met with the varsity and junior varsity players after school on Thursday.
Grief counseling also was made available at the high school on Thursday.
Colquitt County's JV baseball games at Cairo, eighth-grade home baseball game against Valdosta Middle School and junior varsity soccer games against Lowndes at Packer Park, all scheduled for Thursday, were called off.
It was unclear if they would be rescheduled.
All Valdosta High School extracurricular activities for Thursday were postponed, as was Valdosta's Friday varsity baseball game at Lee County.
The Florida Medical Examiners office will not release any information until its investigation is complete.