Last season, the Commerce Tigers put together a tremendous season.
The program won 22 games - the most under head coach Steve Cotrell - and made it to the third round of the Class A Public state playoffs. The season, though, seemed destined to advance further than it did.
During the win-or-go-home Game 3 at Schley County last May, the Tigers trailed 6-3 entering the top of the seventh inning. The inning started favorably for Commerce with three-straight walks to load the bases. Two batters later, the Tigers had trimmed the lead to 6-4 after a fourth walk brought home a run.
The rally, though, wasn't meant to be, and the final score ended at 6-4, ending the Tigers' season. Commerce hopes to learn from the experience of winning one three-game series at Pelham the week before to losing the next three-game series at Schley County and go even further than the 2019 season.
"The key players for us this year will be the junior class, as some have had game experience and some have not," Cotrell said. "The senior bunch has been through the gauntlet several times and know what is expected mentally and physically. There is skill amongst the juniors, but we all know that it takes the mental toughness between the ears, and the only way to find out is to put them in the trenches."
The senior class is comprised of a lot of familiar faces: TJ Trudnak, Jace Veal, Colby Rogers, Nate Ray, Sam Roach and Kody Mintz. The juniors on the team are Kane Goldman, Mathew Martin, Cory Freeman, Evan Davis, Will Slater, Colin Welch, Sully Burke, Tyler Herring and Gray Holbrook.
Depth is one of the strengths Cotrell sees with his group for 2020.
"We are two-deep at most of the positions on the field, which creates competition and makes everyone better," he said.
Cotrell, though, wants to see improvement in two areas from last season: putting the ball in play with two strikes and getting runners in from third base with less than two outs.
The season is slated to start Thursday, Feb. 6 at Oconee County. Commerce will play the likes of East Jackson, Johnson County, Bowdon, Elbert County, Union County, Banks County and Region 8-A.
"Our region will be deep like always," Cotrell said. "It will be a fight every game within the region. We will have to find a way to win the 1-2 run ball games ... It is going to take a few weeks to get some of these young kids going, so if the older kids lead and find ways early on to get the job done, hopefully, by midseason, we should know what type of team we are."