Every dark cloud has a silver lining.
Bradwell Institute baseball coach Rhett Hellgren said he and his players are disappointed in their performance Friday at Tift County High School, where the Tigers were bumped from the state playoffs after losing the first two games in a three-game series by a combined score of 21-0.
But that doesn’t mean the season itself wasn’t a good one, Hellgren said.
Bradwell went 16-11 overall and 14-4 in Region 3-AAAAA, which kept the Tigers in the thick of the region race for much of the season.
Bradwell was even set to host a first-round playoff game as the region’s No. 2 seed until late-season losses to Groves and Benedictine bumped the Tigers to third place and sent them down the road to Tifton in Southwest Georgia.
“It was very difficult going there (to Tift County) in the first place,” Hellgren said. “I truly thought we would have been home for the first round. Unfortunately, we did not do as well as I had hoped in the final two games of the regular season. That was probably the most disappointing moment of the season for the coaching staff. We truly worked too hard to put us in the position to be at home. Not just the coaching staff, but the players as well. It just didn’t work out.”
Hellgren praised his seniors, especially Garrett McCorkle, Josh Driggers, Eric Wells and Leonard Felton — who have played for Hellgren since his second year as the BI baseball coach.
“And they never missed the playoffs in their high school career,” he said. “That is something special about them.”
Looking back, Hellgren acknowledged that defense was a big factor in BI’s wins and losses.
“Our defense this year was up and down and it showed in the losses we had this year,” he said. “When we did not have errors, we won. When we had more than four or five errors we lost, plain and simple.”
As a team, the Tigers hit .322, which Hellgren said wasn’t great but also wasn’t bad for the high-school level.
“We really need to work on not striking out as much and putting the ball in play on the ground. (That’s) something we are going to focus on next year,” he said.
Hellgren said he was especially grateful for his coaching staff this season.
“I could not have done this without them,” he said. “They are the best staff in the state of Georgia, in my opinion. Jeff Eastlake was there more than ever as a lay coach and it contributed to our success. Pat Sammons was very instrumental for the pitchers. Eric Lukarinnen was there again to help out as much as he could and I appreciate all that he did for us in many ways as well. We really got better as the season went on and I expect us to be even better next year.”
Hellgren said junior-varsity and ninth-grade coaches Pete Woodard and Mike Stanford were fantastic in getting the younger guys ready for the next season.
Hellgren also said the Tigers will continue to improve.
“In all, this was our best season to date,” he said. “We are here to stay and I expect us to get better every year. I look forward to working and hopefully getting a home playoff game in the future.”