First Presbyterian Christian Academy has a new head baseball coach this season — but one who is familiar to the program.
Ryan Harmon, an assistant coach on last year’s team, will lead the Highlanders this year after former coach Andy Yanzetich moved away. The Highlanders were scheduled to start play last week, but bad weather has forced them to cancel two games so far.
“And we are chomping at the bit,” Harmon said adding he is excited for the season to get under way.
Harmon, who handled pitching-coach duties last season, played college ball at LaGrange College after he graduated from Liberty County High School in 2001. Later, he transferred to and finished his college-baseball career at Savannah State University.
The Midway native said he had been coaching travel-team baseball for the past several years prior to landing the assistant coach job last season at FPCA.
Liberty County native Mike Wells will assist Harmon. Wells also has coached several local travel teams. Last year, they collaborated to form a new travel team, the Coastal Bombers.
“This is not a one-year plan for us … I live in Midway, I’m from Liberty County and I plan on being here and not going anywhere, and coach Mike has the same goals I do,” Harmon said.
That is good news for the FPCA baseball program, which is under its third head coach in three seasons. Last year, Yanzetich guided the team to a 9-10 overall record and 2-8 mark in Region 2-AA. The previous season, Bruce Green took the team to the playoffs after finishing 11-7 overall and 4-4 in the Highlanders’ previous region.
Harmon said last year’s team did well, considering its difficult new region.
“Last year was our first year in a new region, and it is, bar none, the strongest baseball region the (Georgia Independent School Association) has in the state,” he said. “Brentwood is in our region and has won the state championship two years in a row. Edmund Burke Academy has been the state runners-up two years in a row. The final four had three teams that were in our region … it’s just a phenomenal baseball region … and we were competitive in that region at around 500 for most of the year. Then, we got beat at the end of the year and missed the playoffs by one game.”
Harmon said they plan to keep building where they left off.
“This year, we plan to step it up and make the playoffs,” he said. “Other than our four seniors, we are a little young … but we expect to make the playoffs … if we don’t, we will be extremely disappointed.”
The Highlanders’ four seniors — James Phillips, Dalton Smiley, James Moon and Jake Lee — will be the team’s foundation.
Phillips, who was on FPCA’s boys’ basketball team, will be the starting right fielder.
“He has been here at FPCA most of his career and it should be a big year for him,” Harmon said. “He has hopes of playing college baseball so he is poised to have a good year.”
Lee, who transferred to FPCA three years ago, will pitch this season. Moon also will see some time on the mound, and Smiley is an all-around player.
FPCA lost personnel to graduation, as well as standout Phillip Swindell, who transferred to Long County. But Harmon said FPCA picked up some crucial players who decided to stay close to home this season.
“We got a couple of kids that transferred over, that are Hinesville kids that were playing out of town,” he said. “We have a catcher that played for Savannah Christian last year but he is from Hinesville … Christian Ruff is a sophomore who is a solid catcher. We have a second baseman and a shortstop that chose to transfer over from Bradwell Institute … they wanted to come over and try something different, and both are great kids that are on the honor roll and have high academic standards.”
The coach said he also has two solid freshmen in longtime FPCA student Isiah Dickey and new transfer Nathan Burris.
FPCA picked up a game Wednesday at Hilton Head Christian. At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the Highlanders host Trinity Christian and Harmon said they are ready to right a wrong.
“They beat us and knocked us out of the playoffs last year so we feel like if we can jump out this year at our place in the first region game and get the win … then we will be ahead of the curve for making the playoffs,” he said.