A lot of folks around town have been talking about the high school baseball scene in Columbia County, and the discussion is that the dynasty is dead.
I keep hearing that prep teams in Richmond and Aiken counties have caught up with Columbia County when it comes to fielding quality players.
But to that I say - not so fast.
There is no doubt that North Augusta High School is loaded this season, and the Yellow Jackets proved that by beating Evans (6-1) and Lakeside (10-0).
Also, there is some really good pitching in Richmond County, particularly at Cross Creek High School, which features some fine hurlers. Westside has plenty of talent, too.
Still, I think the top high school baseball around is still played in Columbia County.
Greenbrier, which entered last week ranked No. 8 in Class AAAA, has a young team this season, but the Wolfpack still has some bite. Certainly, the Pack lacks a true ace on its pitching staff, which was never the case in the past, but Greenbrier is still the team to beat in Region 3-AAAA.
Evans, meanwhile, got off to a slow start this spring, but the Knights have rebounded well, as evidenced by a 3-2 victory over the Pack last week.
If some of the underclassmen on coach Ricky Beale's team step up, Evans will be a team to watch in Class AAAAA.
Lakeside lost virtually every key player from last year's team, so many observers expected the Panthers to really struggle this season; but with guys like Craig Arrington and Bobby Bagwell doing a good job on the mound, Lakeside is always dangerous.
A bonus for Lakeside is an early power surge, as Jonathan Crawford, Carl Burrow and Matt Shelton all have blasted home runs.
Harlem, however, is still going through some growing pains. The Bulldogs committed 12 errors in a game against Evans, and were spanked 10-0 by Greenbrier, but don't count the Dogs out in Region 3-AAA.
Augusta Christian will definitely make a statement in its region this season.
Both AC and Harlem face battles with some strong region opponents, and region wins won't be easy to come by for Evans, Lakeside and Greenbrier.
But when the home stretch of the season arrives in May, Columbia County teams should be fighting toward state titles.
It's been 15 years since Evans won its first of five state championships, and even before that, Harlem and Evans were laying the groundwork for excellence on the diamond.
As a result, Columbia County has forged a reputation in baseball. By combining for 17 state titles, the six county programs have earned the respect of every high school baseball coach in the state.
That legacy is something to be proud of, and I don't think our teams are going to tarnish that tradition any time soon.
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