David Kelton has been the head coach of the Panthers for four seasons. Kelton was an assistant for the Panthers for four seasons prior to being named the head coach, working with the defense, base running, and hitting. He has an overall record of 97-66.
Kelton guided the Panthers to a 40-6 record in 2017, setting school records for most wins and fewest losses. The Panthers won the USA South regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA South Regional. The team led the USA South in a number of statistical categories, including a .330 batting average and 2.68 ERA. The Panthers' 2.68 ERA was second in NCAA Division III. The Panthers were ranked No. 1 during the season in the D3baseball.com and ABCA/Rawlings national polls, the first time in the program's history being top-ranked. The Panthers finished the season No. 3 in the ABCA/Rawlings Top 25 poll.
For the 2017 season, Casey Bell was selected as the USA South Player of the Year, while Ryan Broaderick was the USA South Pitcher of the Year and ABCA/Rawlings South All-Region Pitcher of the Year. Freshman Richie Post was the USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Year. Kelton earned USA South Coach of the Year honors. Broaderick and Blake Butcher were named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-America team, while Bell was a D3baseball.com All-America selection. The Panthers had eight players named to USA South All-Conference teams: Bell, Broaderick, Blake Butcher, Jonathan Fleckenstein, James Poropatic, Blane Swift, Tavin Thompson, and Andrew Weekley. Bell, Butcher, Broaderick, Fleckenstein, Swift, Thompson and Weekley were ABCA/Rawlings South All-Region and D3baseball.com All-South Region selections.
The Panthers were 30-13 in 2016, including a 13-5 mark in the USA South conference. The 30 wins rank sixth in the program's history and the most since the 2005 season. The Panthers led the USA South in batting with a .312 team average and were second in pitching with a 3.04 earned run average.
Butcher was named the 2016 USA South Player of the Year. Butcher was one of nine Panthers to be selected to the All-Conference team. Under Kelton, the Panthers have had 12 USA South All-Conference selections and 50 earn USA South Academic All-Conference honors. Butcher and Broaderick were named to the ABCA/Rawlings South All-Region team. In addition, Butcher, Thompson, and Cain Sauls were selected to the D3baseball.com All-South Region team.
A native of West Point, Ga., Kelton was an all-state shortstop for Troup County High School. As captain, he was selected as a Coaches Poll All-American. He set five school hitting records, two of which still remain today.
Kelton was drafted in 1998 out of high school in the second round by the Chicago Cubs. He reached the major leagues with the Cubs in 2003 and 2004. Kelton got his first major league call up when outfielder Sammy Sosa was suspended for the corked bat incident. He received many accolades during his professional career being selected to minor league All-Star teams in eight of his nine seasons.
In 2002, Kelton was the minor league player of the year, and selected as Topp's Player of the Month. He played in the Futures All-Star game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago in 2003. In 2006 as a free agent, Kelton signed with the Atlanta Braves, playing at the AAA level. During his career as a pro, he had 910 hits, including 116 home runs, 517 RBI's, and 89 stolen bases.
Kelton spent the 2007 season as the head coach for the Springwood School in Lanett, Ala. He took the Wildcats to the first round of the AISA playoffs, losing to eventual state champion Lowndes Academy. Kelton is married to the former Meredith Hawkins. The couple resides in LaGrange with their daughter, Mary Elliott and sons, Grady and Hill.