Newspaper Archive of
The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
February 20, 2019     The Monroe County Reporter
PAGE 18     (18 of 24 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 18     (18 of 24 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
February 20, 2019

Newspaper Archive of The Monroe County Reporter produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2021. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

Page 2C February 20, 2019 Reporter By Rk rd Dumas forsyth@my.mcmet Despite a young squad, the Mary Persons baseball team seeks a return to prominence in 2019 after missing out on the state playoffs in three of the past four years. Over the past six seasons, the Bulldogs have been unable to rank any higher than fourth in the region standings, finishing either fourth or fifth every since year 2013. In fact, MP's region record during that span is just a remarkably consistent 42-40, never fin- ishing lower than even .500 in region play but never any better than two games over .500. Altbough the Bulldogs return just six key contrib- utors from last year's 18-12 squad, which faded down the stretch with losses in seven of its last nine games, third-year head coach Clae Mathis said he's optimistic his 2019 team can elevate MP's mediocre standing in the region. "I feel like we're gonna be a better baseball team this year than I've had in my three years here" Mathis said. ' knd part of that is because the culture change that we've been trying to get done in three years is finally kind of taken root a little bit. Because the last two years our teams' attitudes have not reflected what I want my program to reflect. The way other teams view us, the way that other people view your program, it's not good when everybody hates you and everybody can't wait to play you. And it's not becat/se you're good, it's be- cause you act a certain wa) I think all that's gone" MP will depend heav- ily in 2019 on its pitching staff, which Mathis believes can be among the best in Middle Georgia. MP's most experienced return- ers, seniors Alex Kite and Austin Mock and juniors Trippe Moore and Conner Watson, have all logged significant innings over the past two seasons. However, Mock is expected to be sidelined for at least a por- tion, and possibly all, of the season with a UCL injury to his elbow from wrestling season. With Mock out, Mathis said Watson and Kite are likely to be regular region starters with Moore serving as the team's ace reliever. Watson, who Mathis said was MP's best pitcher in 2018, tied for the team lead in wins with 5 while leading the Bulldogs in earned run average at 1.50 in 2018. Kite was the team leader in strikeouts with 51 in 2018 while Moore tied Watson in wins with 5. Another returner, senior Garrett James, will be MP'S primary lefty arm on the mound. Mathis said of James: "The only thing that can stop him is whether he can throw strikes because people don't hit him well. I think he's given up two hard-hit ball since I've coached him? When Kite is not starting, he will be MP's top catcher for the third straight sea- son. Mathis said Kite, one of the squad's top leaders is "the embodiment of what I want Mary Persons base- ball to be about" Mathis said Kite texted him regularly when he was a sophomore in 2017 ask- ing him what he could do to improve in order to get more playing time. Mathis said once Kite got into the lineup that season, he's never come out. Mathis said of Kite: "Since I've been here, he's never missed a Saturday work day, never missed a prac- tice, never missed a game" If Mock is healthy, he will man third base, where he started as a sophomore prior to being moved to shortstop as a junior. How- ever, with Mock out for the foreseeable future, last year's primary designated hitter, junior Jeramiah An- drews, will take over third base. The rest of the infield will be made up of all new starters. Junior Nate How- ard, an offensive lineman on the Bulldogs' football squad, will start at first base after not playing baseball his sophomore season. Mathis said of Howard: "He's not just a big guy that's gonna play first. He's a baseball player, and he's a hitter. And we're extremely happy that he's back." Another junior Xavier Soule, an MP IV standout a year ago, will take over sec- ond base. Meanwhile, MP will turn to one of the most promising young talents in recent program history at shortstop as freshman Eric Snow will take over. Snow was perhaps the best all-around player on the Monroe County Middle School's area championship team in 2018. Anchoring the outfield in center will be Moore, a Georgia Tech commit, who is one of the top defensive players in the mid-state, leading MP with five outfield assists in 2018. Watson, another sparkling defender, will start in leftfield but will likely shift over to center when Moore is on the mound. Manning rightfield will be yet an- other junior, Wyatt Currie, who pr'tmarily played on the JV team last year. An- other player that will factor heavily into the outfidld rotation is senior Camden Claxton, one of the squad's most reliable utility men who is capable of playing all over the diamond. Mathis said he thinks MP'S lineup will have more pop than a year ago, when the Dogs' bats were silenced in several big late-season games. He said Snow will lead off to start the season. Claxton will likely be the No. 2 hitter, setting the table for the heart of MP'S order, which includes Moore, Andrews, Mock and Kite. Andrews, in particular, could have an explosive 2019 campaign after leading the Dogs in batting average (.414) and on-base percentage (.521) en route to 1st Team All Region 2-AAAA honors as " a sophomore, o a Mathis said of Andrews: "He's one of those guys that I think was just born a hitter. Last year, he had 2019 MP Varsity DATE OPPONENT LOCATION Feb. 20 Sandy Creek Home Feb. 22 Morgan County Home Feb. 25 Jackson Away Mar. 1 Jackson Home Mar. 4 Jordan Home Mar. 5 Rutland Away Mar. 6 Jordan Away Mar. 9 Islands Mid-South Mar. 9 Islands Mid-South Mar. 11 Rutland Mid-South Mar. 15 Crisp County Mid-South Mar. 16 Cook Mid-South Mar. 18 Howard* Home Mar. 20 Howard* Away Mar. 22 Howard* Home Mar. 25 Spalding* Home Mar. 27 Spalding* Away Mar. 29 Spalding* Home Apr. 1 West Laurens* Home Apr. 1 West Laurens* Home Apr. 3 West Laurens* Away Apr. 8 Perry* Away Apr. 10 Perry* Home Apr. 12 Perry* Away Apr. 15 Upson-Lee* Away Apr. 17 Upson-Lee* Away Apr. 19 Upson-Lee* Suntrust Park April 24-26(1st Round State)TBD May 2-3 (2nd Round State)TBD May 8-9 (Quarterfinals State) TBD May 14-15 (Semifinals State) TBD May 20-22 (Finals State) TBD * Region 2-AAAA Games Schedule TIME 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 4:00 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 12:O0 p.m. 2:00 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 7:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:00 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 1:00 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 1:00 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 5:55 p.m. 4:00 p.m. TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 2019 MP JV I Schedule DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME Feb. 20 Sandy Creek Home 4 p.m. Feb. 21 Lamar County Home 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28 Schley County Away 4:15 p.m. Feb. 28 Schley County Away 5:45 p.m. Mar. 5 Upson-Lee Away 4 p.m. Mar. 5 Upson-Lee Away 6 p.m. Mar. 7 Schley County Home 4 p.m. Mar. 7 Schley County Home 5:30 p.m. Mar. 13 Rutland Away 4:30 p.m. Mar. 19 Jones County Home 4 p.m. Mar. 19 Jones County Home 5:45 p.m. Mar. 21 Lamar County Away 4:30 p.m. Mar. 26 Jones County Away 4 p.m. Mar. 26 Jones County Away 5:45 p.m. multi-hit games about six or seven games in a row, all of them region games." Other key varsity re- serves include: senior Matt Nash, who Mathis said hasn't played since middle school but will serve as a pinch runner, juniors Isaiah Harper, who will catch, play middle infield and pinch run, and Keller Smith, a pitcher, and freshman pitcher Kaden Swancey. MP's top competition within Region 2-AAAA will likely include de- fending champion West Laurens. It was against the Raiders when Mathis said 2018 turned as the Bull- dogs blew a five-run lead in early April that started the Dogs' season-ending tail- spin. Mathis said Spalding is also expected to return a strong squad, as are Perry and Upson-Lee. Despite the tough competition, Mathis said his goal is for MP to win the program's first region title in eight years. "I don't want our goal to be to make the playoffs. I think that that's a bad goal" he said. "I want our goal to be to win this region because we've got a pitch- ing staffthat's better than everyone else's I think. And I think that our kids can step up and hit the baseball well enough to win those games. You win two from everybody, and you're a region champ. That's pretty much how it works And then I don't want to be a one-and-done playoffteam. We want the culture here to be we expect to do what football does v here we expect to go two or three rounds every year." Perhaps the most unique part of MP's 2019 baseball season is that the Bulldogs will have the rare oppor- tunity to play in a Major League Baseball stadium. Mathis gave up one of MP's region home dates for the. chance to play the Knights at the Atlanta Braves' SunTrust Park at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 19. Mathis said he thinks the Dogs- Knights dash is one ofj t two high school games to be contested at SunTrust Park in 2019. Mathis said the Bulldogs will be selling Braves' tickets at a discounted rate for five different games (500 tickets per game) in the upcoming months as part of its agree- ment to play in Atlanta. Mathis said he couldn't pass up the chance to team up with the Braves, saying it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for his squad to play in a big league ballpark. MP players and coaches will also get access to parts of the stadium fans never typically get to see. 2019 C-Team Baseball Schedule DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME Feb. 26 Henderson Away 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28 Gray Station (DH) Home 4 p.m. Mar. 1 ACE (D-Team) Home 4 p.m. Mar. 5 Upson County Away 4:30 p.m. Mar. 6 Lamar County Away 4:30 p.m. Mar. 8 Gray Station (DH) Away 4 p.m. Mar. 12 Lamar County Home 4:30 p.m. Mar. 13 ACE (D-Team) Home 4:30 p.m. Mar. 14 Clifton Ridge Away 4:30 p.m. Mar. 19 Byron Away 4 p.m. Mar. 21 Henderson Home 4:30 p.m. Mar. 28 Upson County Home 4:30 p.m. Apr. 4 ACE Away 4 p.m. Apr. 8 Clifton Ridge Home 4:30 p.m.