Coach Rhett Hellgren said his Bradwell Institute Tiger baseball team has nine returning lettermen from last season but added that his squad needs to work on pitching skills to have a successful season.
Of the nine lettermen, the coach said five actually got "legitimate playing time last season." Hellgren said that’s due mostly to a squad that’s still relatively young. The Tigers have three seniors, four juniors and two sophomores.
"I’m excited to be out again," the coach said during practice last week. "This is my fourth year and these seniors have been out here with me for four years now. We know what to expect from each other."
And what Hellgren expects is another post-season run.
"We made the playoffs the last two years and our goal this year is to have a home playoff game," he said.
Looking at the upcoming season, the coach said the toughest region games should be against Jenkins, Camden and Groves. But he added his pitching rotation could hamper their drive."Pitching is probably going to be our weakest aspect this year," he said. "Just about everybody will pitch except Zach Hawkins and Josh Rivers. I think, defensively, we are going to be OK. The only thing that concerns me is pitching. If we can get somebody to throw strikes or let them hit the ball, we’ll be fine because we can play defense."
Hawkins and Rivers are the Tigers leadoff and No. 3 batter, respectively.
Junior Josh Driggers will again don the mask.
"Driggers is the man behind the plate," Hellgren said. "He’s worked out hard in the weight room and I hope he can mature enough and grow as a player. I know he can handle the job, but he has to be mature in the way he handles it."
Rivers, Hawkins and Eran Hodge are the Tigers’ three seniors.
"Those three seniors need to step up and be leaders this season," said the coach, who thinks Bradwell also has good group of up-and-coming eighth- and ninth-graders.
"I’m really excited and the future of Tiger baseball is really looking up," he said. "We have about 10 eighth-graders and seven or eight ninth-graders coming into the program."
The Tigers played at Brantley County on Thursday and lost 17-2.
Hellgren said it was the pitching that did them in.
"When you can’t throw strikes, it is going to be a long day," he said. "The bright spot was Mitch Rogers. He did come in relief and did a great job. Eran Hodge took the loss and Garrett McCorckle had an RBI single. Errors and walks will absolutely kill you in baseball."
Seniors: Josh Rivers, Zach Hawkins and Eran Hodge
Juniors: Josh Driggers, Leonard Felton, Garrett McCorckle and Eric Wells
Sophomores: Jacob Dill and Mitch Rogers