Like everyone else, Jefferson lost over half of its season last year. But the Dragons hope a nine-member senior class provides a calming force following a most unprecedented 2020.
Jefferson went 6-7 last year before the COVID-19 outbreak ended the season, having won five-straight games at the time of cancellation.
“Anytime you lose three or four months on the baseball field, it’s going to impact play, for sure,” coach Tommy Knight said. “It’s still going to be good baseball, but early on, we may be trying to figure some things out. But our veteran group of kids, I think, will figure it out pretty quick.”
Jefferson’s sizable senior class is headed up by Mason Cooper, a four-year starter and mainstay at catcher, and Rem Maxwell, a Georgia Southern signee at pitcher. The group includes Coleman Watkins (shortstop), Nick Sellers (first base, outfield), J.J. Rapp (infield), Landon Richards (infield, catcher), Jake Walker (outfield), Austin Bell (pitcher) and Hop Alridge (pitcher). The Dragons also return underclassman Bowman Horn, a sophomore, who earned the starting job at second base last year as a freshman.
Maxwell should “eat up a ton of innings” at the No. 1 spot in the pitching rotation, according to Knight, who praised the senior’s evolution over the past four years as a pitcher. The other starting spots in the rotation haven’t been determined, but the Dragons will look for innings out of Walker, Richards, Rapp, Watkins, Bryce Glausier, Spencer Neese, freshman Jase Peoples and Aldrige (in his first season since middle school), as well as Cooper, who will pitch for the first time in his high school career.
At the plate, Watkins, Horn, Cooper and Sellers (last year’s leading hitter, batting over. 400) will make up the middle of the Dragons’ batting order. Knight added that Maxwell could “surprise some people” at the plate.
Jefferson’s new region — 8-AAAA — will include two opponents ranked in the top five in Class AAAA — Flowery Branch and North Oconee (the Dragons are also a preseason top-five team). Madison County is traditionally strong, as well.
“The top of our region is really tough,” Knight said. “So we’ll be well-tested by the time we get to the playoffs.”
Knight said his team is practicing like a team that’s missed it's time away from the game for nearly a year.
“They are ready,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. They are ready … They’re hungry because they haven’t been able to get out there and do what they love to do. Our practices have been very upbeat and enthusiastic. You can just tell the kids, by the way they’re handling things, they’re ready to get back out there and get going again.”