The Augusta Christian School baseball team opened another season with a new head coach, but what else is new?
Craig Johnson made his head-coaching debut Tuesday when the Lions played host to the Greater Augusta Eagles, and his main priority for the 2003 season is to make sure he's around in 2004.
"I feel for the seniors here. They've played for a different coach every year," Johnson said. "Once you get everybody on the same page and get some continuity, that will make things a lot easier. I want to bring some consistency to the program. The kids needed to know their coach would be back the following year."
Pete Meadows coached the AC baseball team from 1993 through 2000, and molded the Lions into one of the premier programs in the Georgia Independent Schools Association.
Under Meadows, the Lions won two Class AAA titles, but since his departure, Augusta Christian's diamond tradition has tarnished.
Terry Weaver was hired to replace Meadows, but he didn't coach a single game before moving to another job. Chileno Valdez stepped in for two seasons before being booted out. Eric Lairsey led the Lions last year, but now he's gone.
Craig Johnson watches the field during his first game as head coach at Augusta Christian. Johnson said he hopes to stop the coaching carousel at the school.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Johnson intends to stop the coaching carousel.
The first-year coach got off to a good start, as the Lions picked up a 2-1 win over Greater Augusta. Johnson admits the Lions suffered from some first-game jitters, and he says his squad was a bit overconfident Tuesday.
Augusta Christian's hitters were hacking at high pitches and managed only three hits against the Eagles.
Senior Will Reese went 1 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored, while Freddrick Griffin and Ben Palacz picked up the other two hits for AC.
"We went up there swinging at everything that was thrown, and two or three baserunning blunders cost us an opportunity to have big innings," Johnson said. "We did the job with defense and pitching. We threw strikes and made the plays."
Adam McKinney pitched four innings and earned the win. Sam Pitts, Palacz and Jordan Belcher combined to close out the final three innings on the mound.
"Our goal was to be 1-0 at the end of the ball game, and that was achieved," Johnson said. "It was good for our kids to see that there are things we need to work on."
Competing in Region 4-AAA this season will require some hard work. Defending region champ Brentwood has dropped to a lower classification, but defending Class AAA state champion George Walton Academy has joined AC's region.
Johnson thinks the Lions are up for the challenge.
"We have an opportunity to win region if we play well, and then we'd like to take a run at a state title," he said. "We've got the potential to do some damage. The talent's here, but when we step between the lines we'll have to play our very best."
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