The Long County High School baseball team closed out last season on a winning note, winning seven of its last nine games to finish 14-12 overall and just miss a spot in the state playoffs.
The Blue Tide want better things this spring.
"This year, in order to make the playoffs, we must have good starting pitching and timely hitting," Long County coach Brian Thomas said. "I don’t feel that this season we will be intimidated by playing some of the better teams in the region."
When Thomas speaks of the talent in Region 2-AA he is not exaggerating. With reclassification and realignment of the region, six of 2-AA’s nine members made the postseason in 2010.
Joining the region this year are Vidalia High School and Toombs County. Toombs went 27-7 and made it to the third round of the state tournament last year, and should challenge for a top spot in the region.
That may be why Thomas said the biggest problem his team will face won’t come from within, but the solution to it will come from his roster.
"Our biggest weakness is trying to overcome playing in such a tough region, and the strength of this team is senior leadership," he said. "I have seven seniors that are taking the initiative and showing our younger players the proper way to conduct themselves on and off the field."
That means the team will go as far as its most experienced players can lead it.
"They (seniors) are the heart of our team. Their dedication to our program has been and will be the most instrumental part of our program’s success," Thomas said.
Long County’s senior base includes Carlton Milton, Brandon McManus, Clint Kennedy, Nick Moody, Kyle Sapwell, Jonathan Flynn and Chris Stock. In addition, Thomas has an outstanding supporting cast coming back in Luke Golden, Shawn Mills and Brandon Hope.
"I am looking forward to a great season," Thomas said. "This group of players has been a real joy to coach."
The Blue Tide kicks off its season Monday with a trip to Jesup to take on arch-rival Wayne County High School. The Region 2A-AAAA Yellow Jackets have had the Tide’s number in recent years, and defeated Long County 11-1 last season. The game starts at 5:30 p.m.