The Bradwell Institute baseball team has begun conditioning, and the Tigers are looking to maintain the standard set by last year’s team.
With a strong group of seniors last year, Bradwell made it to the first round of the state playoffs. The Tigers finished 16-11 overall and 14-4 in Region 3-AAAAA.
More importantly, Bradwell managed to shake a five-year curse and beat Jenkins High twice — once in six innings at home and once on the Warriors’ field.
While the bar has been set high, coach Rhett Hellgren said several players with varsity experience are returning this season.
BI pitchers Jacob Dill and Mitch Rogers have been warming up on the mound. Hellgren said the two incoming seniors are likely to be team leaders this season.
Matt Brown returns as well, the coach said, and his role as a designated hitter will be greater this season as an incoming senior.
“P.J. Satele, Caleb Wells, Xavier John, Adam Corwin and Chris Nunn played some last year, and hopefully they can continue to improve,” Hellgren added. The coach said Wells has been working especially hard to replace catcher Joshua Driggers, who graduated.
Hellgren said practice has been coming along, and the coaching staff has been busy evaluating recruits to make sure the best players are placed in the right spots.
“We set a standard last year, and hopefully we can keep that standard,” Hellgren said. “It might be a little more difficult because we were senior heavy last year, so right now we have a lot of openings and it’s an open field. A lot of positions have not been determined.”
Bradwell will play host to Liberty County High School at 5 p.m. Feb. 13 in a preseason scrimmage.
Hellgren said the scrimmage is much like another practice session and an evaluation tool for his team.
“It’s early in the season, and it’s just another way to evaluate our players in a live-game scenario,” he said.
The coach said he was especially excited about Bradwell’s future after a large group of potential players tried out. He said it will help the Tigers develop their younger squads.
“This was the largest group of ninth-graders and freshmen to come out in a long time,” Hellgren said. “We have 18 freshmen and eighth-graders. … That is a great turnout, and that is what you need — the younger guys learning the system and developing their skills for the future.”
Hellgren added that his coaching staff is phenomenal. He said they have been putting in extra time to make sure the team has a successful year ahead.
Looking over the region teams, Hellgren expects Camden County to have a strong team, but he added that the entire region will be challenging.
“Our region is not as weak as it has been in the past,” he said. “We still have to be watchful of Camden, Jenkins, Benedictine and Groves, so you really have five teams playing for those top four spots.”
After the Feb. 15 scrimmage, the boys will have one week to prepare for their season opener at the Tifton-Tift County Diamond Days Tournament.
Bradwell is scheduled to play Crisp County in the first game and also will take on Worth County.
Bradwell will jump into region play March 2 at Savannah High. The Tigers’ home opener is at 4:30 p.m. March 6 against region opponent Islands High.