The Long County Blue Tide baseball team did something unfamiliar to them in 2018 as they made the state playoffs in AAA. They will look to much of the same in 2019 as the baseball season gets ready to swing into action.
The Blue Tide finished the 2018 season 11-12 before falling to Cook High School in the first round of the playoffs. The team looks to make another run in the playoffs and second-year head coach James Hobbs believes his team has what it takes to do so.
“We have a good shot,” said head coach James Hobbs. “We are definitely a young team with only one senior - Rex Johnson will pitch and catch for us. But I told them that we are better right now than we were last year at this time.”
Hobbs also “the whole region is down” and that finding good pitching will be important in the first ten non-region games.
Over the last few years, Region 2-AAA has been one of the most competitive in the state with Appling County advancing to the Elite Eight last year and Pierce County falling short in the state championship series in 2017. That good competition should give the Tide chances to improve and get ready for a possible postseason run.
“This is definitely a tough baseball region,” Hobbs said. “Wayne County (one of the best teams in 5A) plays them every year because they know they will get good competition from them. Appling and Pierce are expected to be back on top this year while the four of us (Long, Tattnall, Liberty, and Brantley) will be in a dogfight the whole year.”
The Blue Tide lost six seniors to graduation from the 2018 season, including three key pieces to their pitching corps. On top of that, they will likely dress 11 underclassmen, including five freshmen. While that may hold hope for the future, Coach Hobbs knows that it is both a blessing and a curse to be so young.
“Our underclassmen will be key to us this year. Cole Moss, Dwane Rowe, and Joseph Cammack, all freshmen, should all get good reps on the varsity squad this season as well as most of our sophomores,” Hobbs said. “While I am not looking past this season at all, it will be fun to have a real JV squad you can develop and make into real competitors in years to come.”
Allen Crystal, Luke Wells and Carlos Cruz are all juniors that should make an impact for the Blue Tide this year. Hobbs also offered an updated on junior Ethan Williams, who was diagnosed with a debilitating disease late last year and saw his baseball future put in jeopardy.
“Ethan Williams is doing great right now, too. He is coming along much better than we anticipated and we look for him to possibly return by region play.”
The Blue Tide are looking to have a good season and post their first winning record since 2016. It should be an exciting year for the team. The Tide will take the diamond for the first time in the regular season as they host New Hampstead on Monday, Feb. 11.