This is an interesting year in Columbia County baseball. On any given day, it seems our teams are evenly matched. Even though Greenbrier is 5-0 vs. county teams and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA, they have won a couple of tight games against county foes to get to that point. It shows how solid baseball in the county is again this year. Here is a look at how I see the teams so far.
1. Greenbrier (9-2, 4-0): As I mentioned above, the ’Pack stands at 5-0 versus other Columbia County teams. They have allowed only eight runs in those eight games. Greenbrier’s No. 1 ranking in Class AAAA is a combination of their deep playoff run last year, a solid start this season, and a reward for playing a tough schedule. They already have wins over Marist, Spalding, Effingham County, Harlem, Evans and Lakeside. There has not been one area that has carried Greenbrier. They have struggled at times to score runs, but often times their pitching has bailed them out. If they can get in a groove at the plate, this team could be a state title contender in AAAA.
2. Harlem (11-3, 4-1): The Bulldogs might be in AAA, but they already have wins over Evans and Lakeside. They also had Greenbrier on the ropes for five innings. The Bulldogs also boast an impressive 4-2 mark versus other teams from Columbia County. They have had to replace a lot of talent over the past couple of seasons, but the Bulldogs deserve their No. 9 ranking in Class AAA. Like Greenbrier, they have played a very ambitious schedule. Pitching has been a key for the Bulldogs. They gave up nine runs each to Westside and Greenbrier. In their other 12 games, Harlem has yielded only 15 total runs. In those 12 games, they allowed one run or fewer seven times.
3. Evans (8-5, 2-2): The Knights have a lot of young players in key roles this year, but they are also very talented young players. Keep an eye on this group for sure. As you might expect from a younger team, they have been a little inconsistent this year. Three of their five losses have been one-run games to Greenbrier (No. 1 in Class AAAA), South Effingham (No. 3 in Class AAAA) and Harlem (No. 9 in Class AAA). The Knights are 2-3 in Columbia County, but keep in mind of their five total losses, all but one loss has been to teams ranked in the top 10, and the other was to a very good Westside team.
4. Lakeside (9-6, 0-5): The Panthers have been through a lot this season already, and they have been in a mini-slump since a terrific start. One of the main reasons is the team losing several key players. The region record looks bad, but keep in mind Subregion 2B-AAAA is as good as any subregion in the state, with Greenbrier, South Effingham, Effingham County, Statesboro, Evans and Lakeside, so there are no “gimmies” in region play. The Panthers are allowing four or fewer runs per game. Lakeside is 2-3 vs. other county teams, but has several impressive wins. The Panthers have knocked off Burke County, Harlem, Westside, Thomson and Cross Creek, and shutout North Augusta 7-0 in a pre-season scrimmage.
5. Grovetown (7-7, 1-3): The Warriors are an impressive 7-2 outside of the county, but they are 0-5 in-county. They have shown they can play with anyone on a given day, but have not been able to close the deal, losing one-run games to Lakeside and Greenbrier, and a two-run game to Evans. Like Evans, several key players for Mike Jones’ squad are underclassmen, including shortstop Cameron Busby (sophomore), third baseman Ryan Beasley (junior) and standout pitcher Hunter McBride (junior).
I will take a look at the GISA schools later, but as it stands I would have Augusta Christian No. 6 and Augusta Prep No. 7 in my Columbia County baseball poll at this point. I will also include a look at the top players in the county so far this season as well.