Written by Henry Sewell:
In Coach Scott Stricklin’s fourth season at the helm, the Dawgs welcome in 14 freshmen (Ranked 3rd best recruiting class by PerfectGame.org) to this year’s roster. Of the 18 position players between the two teams, 14 are underclassmen (78-percent). Of the 21 pitchers, 14 are underclassmen (66-percent).
Coach Stricklin said he’s “not checking birth certificates,” when it comes to position battles, and the best player will play. He also admitted that he’s never coached a team this young before, but the teaching points to the young kids are getting them used to the signals and level of competition. While he also admitted that they weren’t ready quite yet, they should be come February. Eight of the incoming freshman were first team All-State and seven were in the state finals in the Georgia High School playoffs – the players are “not only talented, but they’ve played at a high level and ready to help the team right now,” said Coach Stricklin.
Between Thursday and Sunday, the baseball team was split between Red and Black squads for a best of three series. After falling into a 1-0 deficit on Friday night to the Red team, the Black team came back strong winning the next two games to win the series and enjoy their steak dinners while the losing squad settles for hot dogs in addition to the Black squad ribbing them over losing the series.
In Game 1, the Red team got the bats working in the 3rd inning, loading the bases on a Logan Moody single, a Mason Meadows walk and a Tucker Bradley hit by pitch. Cam Shephard drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly to right, then Will Campbell followed it up by driving in two runs on a ground rule double hugging the left field foul line. The Red team added two more runs in the inning, stretching their lead to . The Black team’s offense was kept quiet by starting pitcher Drew Moody, returning from last season’s 4.47 ERA and 2-3 record in 22 appearances out of the pen. Moody pitched 5 innings allowing only 2 hits and no runs. The Black team was able to add a run in the 6th against Tim Elliott, but he managed to escape the inopportune bases loaded situation only giving up one run. In the 7th, freshman relief pitcher Zac Kristofak struck out the side on 10 pitches to close the door on the game.
On a clear Friday night, the Red team jumped out to an early lead with Cam Shephard’s two-run homerun. The Black team answered in the second inning on an RBI double from junior shortstop Trey Logan and the tying run came on an infield groundout by DH James Williams with Riley King on third base. Then in the 3rd inning, the Black team took control of the ball game with 2-run bomb off Keegan McGovern’s bat that climbed halfway up the trees behind the 370 sign in right-center. Leading 4-2 in the 5th, the Reds got a run and loaded the bases with 2 outs before the Blake Cairnes limited the damage and escaped with the lead. The Black team would hold the lead and tie the series at 1-1 with a 4-3 win.
Under weather that players and fans wish they could bottle up and save for February when the season starts, Sunday’s series finale was a much cleaner affair than the first two games. The Dawgs cleaned up the errors in the field and kept their hit batsmen to a manageable amount. The Black team got the offense going early and often in game three, putting three on the board in the first frame. The biggest standout was Black team’s starting pitcher Tony Locey, the freshman from Houston County HS. Coach Striklin said Locey warned the Red squad after Friday’s loss to be ready for him in game three, and took his alpha male mentality to the mound attacking hitters. Of the 13 batters he faced in 4 innings of work, he struck out 7 of them with his velocity and aggressive mentality. Locey shook off the catcher’s call for breaking stuff a number of times to throw gas, and it paid off. Locey left the mound with a 5-0 lead, and the Red team forced the bases loaded on pitcher Addison Albright, but only managed to score one run in the bottom of the 5th. In the following frame, freshman centerfielder rocked a 2-0 hitter’s count pitch off the scoreboard for a 3-run homerun to extend the lead 8-1. The Black team would cruise the rest of the way to a 9-2 lead.
When the contest is your pitching and defense against your offense, Coach Stricklin said “head coaches are never happy after intersquads, because when the hitters dominate the pitchers aren’t pitching well and when the pitching dominates you ask what’s wrong with your hitters – but overall what you want to see pitchers throwing well, hitters competing and defense making plays, and we saw some of that this week.”
The regular season opens up February 17th with a three game series against the College of Charleston at Foley Field in Athens.