The way the season began might not have been what Greenbrier High School's baseball team wanted, but its goal doesn't necessarily hinge on winning rivalry games.
That was the message delivered by Wolfpack coach Chris Wilkins before the season, before Greenbrier opened its season by dropping games to rivals Evans and Lakeside.
Greenbrier, which was denied a region title in 2009, believes it could have the pieces to make a run at the title this season.
"Our goal is to win a region championship," Wilkins said. "Evans, Lakeside and Harlem, they don't really matter when it comes to those things. But you want to win those rival games."
The Wolfpack's goal come from a solid core of returning seniors. Ben Morgan, Chad Farmer, Shawn McCain and Sam Daniel will all play college ball next year. Fellow seniors Blake Ross and Jeff McGowan will probably join them.
After it was bounced in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs a season ago, Greenbrier wants more.
Players to watch
Ben Morgan, senior
-- The leadoff man and Georgia Southern signee does whatever needed to get on base.
Shawn McCain, senior
-- The Western Carolina-bound slugger and catcher should also aid the Wolfpack's pitching staff.
Chad Farmer, senior
-- The ace lefty locked in with Appalachian State before the season. He will try to lead the 'Pack to a region title.
Quotable: "We feel like we got a lot of guys back we needed to have back."
-- coach Chris Wilkins
First-year squad wants to compete
Grovetown's first baseball team faces the same challenges its other sports programs have faced. The chief concern has been getting everyone to play together.
First-year head coach Mike Jones is tasked with that, as well as a group that includes many players who were on middle-school rosters last season.
But that hasn't kept the Warriors from setting a high bar in tough Region 3-AAAA.
"Our goal is to be one of the four playing at the end of the year, however that shakes out," Jones said. "However we can get there, that's our goal."
The Warriors dropped their first game, 9-4 at Toombs County. They faced Toombs' top pitcher, and Jones was able to learn more about his team. He said he liked the way freshman Jamal Cummings swung the bat, and that junior Jeremiah Shaeffer and Blake Lane should be solid players.
The focus early has been on the basics.
"The more we can be around each other, the better off we'll be," Jones said.
Players to watch
Jeremiah Shaeffer, junior
-- The shortstop and pitcher is the type of all-around player first-year Warriors need.
Blake Lane, junior
-- He's a pitcher and outfielder with good speed.
Quotable: "Probably the biggest thing is learning how to play together. None of us have been together." -- coach Mike Jones
Bulldogs hope to maintain control
It's too early to tell how Harlem's baseball team might finish this season, but what longtime coach Jimmie Lewis has observed early is that the Bulldogs will be a good team.
"We got a crowd that knows the team concept," he said. "They're going to do what they can do to help the team."
On the mound, seniors Derek Beasley and Jay Aplin lead a rotation Lewis said knows how to throw strikes. Beasley started the Bulldogs' opening victory over Thomson, with Aplin also pitching.
The pair were kept on a pitch count in preparation for their next game at Greenbrier.
But Lewis was impressed with the control.
"We got people throwing strikes," he said. "Give me that any day of the week. It'd be nice to have a super flame-thrower for the last inning, but we ain't got it."
The Bulldogs will continue to play the way they have for years under Lewis. Get runners on, move them over and rely on timely hitting to drive them in.
The Bulldogs, who dropped their first round Class AAAA series to Alcovy last season, will play one more season in the classification.
"We just do what we got to do: play good defense and move the ball around," Lewis said.
Players to watch
Derek Beasley, senior
-- The USC Aiken signee brings experience on the mound and has a solid bat.
Jay Aplin, senior
-- The future Shorter University pitcher is ready for breakout year after contributing as a junior.
Tyler James, senior
-- The experienced infielder is among a strong core of Bulldogs seniors.
Quotable: "Everybody is doing their part for the betterment of the team. I don't think we got any individuals." -- coach Jimmie Lewis
Defending region champs ready for another run
Twelve seniors dotted last season's Region 3-AAAA champions roster.
Those contributors, of course, are now gone. But the Panthers' returning pieces could produce a nice follow-up to one of the more memorable baseball seasons the school has had.
Lakeside's top two pitchers from a season ago are gone, but back are Zach Hayden and fellow senior Jeffrey Stoner.
Seniors Ben Black and Spencer Starnes will anchor the Panthers up the middle. Clayton Miller provides a strong presence at catcher, and Andy Pringle a strong arm for the outfield.
Expectations are high again.
"We got nine good starters that will play," Stoner said after signing with Francis Marion University.
"Last year, we had people on the bench who would have started other places. I think we'll do as good, if not better, than last year."
Players to watch
Ben Black, senior
-- The USC Aiken-bound senior provides a strong arm on the mound and middle infield.
Spencer Starnes, senior
-- The smart senior brings a lefty bat and experience in the middle infield.
Zach Hayden, senior
-- The outfielder and pitcher might throw harder than anyone on the team.
Quotable: "We have a coachable group that is eager to get better. The returners know what it takes to get back to where we were last year." -- coach T.J. Davis
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