The East Jackson baseball team felt like the table was set for a big run last year with a senior-laden group.
Then COVID-19 struck, the season ended suddenly and all those seniors graduated.
“Man, what a crazy year since the beginning of March 2020,” second-year coach Scott Myers said. “I think last year we were really starting to play good baseball when everything went haywire with Covid … The senior group that we had was really accomplished and we are definitely going to miss those guys for sure. It was tough. I think we had the make up to make a good run, but then you have to move on to the next year.”
Next year is now as East Jackson lost all of last year’s pitching staff to graduation, as well as six positional starters from 2020.
The Eagles will turn to a small senior class made up of Braxton Standridge, Gavin Beck and Dylan Varner.
“These guys will need to be big and pull our other young players along,” Myers said.
Myers also points to players such as Peyton Garner, Aiden Holley and Randy Smith as important pieces to the team as well, saying that trio “will need to get up to varsity speed quick and continue to grow.”
With the loss of their pitching experience, the hope is that the Eagles will be able to swing the bats well enough to offset that.
But the inexperience on the mound will be a hurdle.
“We lost all innings pitched last year on varsity due to graduation or injury so our young pitching staff will be tested,” Myers said. “We have some good arms but (with) our lack of experience, (we) will be challenged.”
East Jackson’s region will look different this spring as Jefferson, Jackson County and Morgan County were moved to different classifications, while Oconee County and Stephens County were assigned to 8-AAA. Myers sees Hart County, which advanced to the Final Four in 2019, as the preseason favorite.
“Hart looks to be in a good spot after only graduating a few guys and the rest of the region will be solid, so we have our work cut out for us,” Myers said.
Despite the challenges ahead, Myers is happy that baseball has returned after over half a season was lost in 2020.
“With every new season it is always exciting to get back to what you love doing,” he said. “This year and preseason has been crazy for everyone from staff to players but all baseball teams all over the country are in the same boat. There is no substitute for hard work, so the only option we have is to go to work and compete against the game everyday. Hopefully, we will continue to grow and develop as a team and get better each day.”