The Liberty County and Bradwell Institute baseball teams open their seasons next week.
After scrimmaging Tattnall County on Thursday, Bradwell will open the season at Long County at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19. Meanwhile, Liberty has its first regular season home game at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20.
According to Tiger coach Jeff Polk, Bradwell should be strong after graduating only four players from last year’s team. Polk said the most notable missing players from last season are catcher Sage Sammons and second baseman Chris Nunn.
The coach said everyone else returning has played for the past two-three seasons.
“I expect them to make a big impact. Most have playoff experience. They should be making an impact as soon as they get on the field,” Polk said. “We have seven to eight seniors coming up ... they have experience, but it is going to be a tough region … and with this new region, you have to be able to come every day and play.”
The Tigers were 9-15 overall and 7-7 in the region last year.
This year, the Tigers will have to take on South Effingham, Richmond Hill, Effingham County and Statesboro as their Region 3-AAAAA opponents. Those teams usually field quality squads; Statesboro made it all the way to the state finals before losing to Carrollton.
One area of concern for Polk is developing the right players to fill in the spot left by Sammons, a standout for the Tigers.
“We have some strong young guys … they may make an impact in the future … not now, but in the future … it’s hard to replace Sage … but somebody is going to have to fill those shoes,” he said.
Polk is confident in his pitching squad, which consists of Chris Bell, Evan Crystal, Darrius Tilghman and Stephon Felton.
Thursday’s scrimmage starts at 6 p.m. at Tattnall County.
Panther coach Tony Glazer lost five seniors last year, including one of his top pitchers in Curtis Michalowicz.
But the Panthers return an ace in pitcher Colby Rhea, a junior, who heads up a deep rotation that includes Parker Neely, Jacari Roberts, Vincent Brunelli, Quinndon Montgomery and Aric Albertson.
Glazer said that unlike last year — when the Panthers primarily had one catcher JT Evans, for the whole season — he has about four players that can fill the spot behind the plate.
“I return a lot of guys that last year that were my middle-lineup guys,” Glazer said. “I am returning my No. 1 pitcher and my three highest-average batting guys, and that is always a good thing. I have a couple of guys who played a good amount last year and will move into some of the starting holes for this year and a couple of ninth-graders who might also come up and start on varsity.”
Glazer said his junior-varsity team placed second in the region last year.
The Panthers have been hitting the batting cage early and often.
“We need to get better in our timely hitting,” Glazer said. “Last year, we had too many players on base and could never get them moved around and get them home. We need to take advantage of those opportunities.”
The Panthers, who finished 3-18 overall and 0-11 in Region 3-AAAA last year, face Thomson, Windsor Forest, Burke County, Wayne County and New Hampstead in region play.
“In my opinion, Wayne County is the best team we faced last year,” Glazer said, adding that the Yellow Jackets again are the team to beat.