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Devils are ready to go
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    For most baseball teams, a 15-7 regular-season record wouldn’t be termed a disappointment. But Statesboro is not most teams, and after a first-round, region-playoff loss to Lakeside, the Diamond Devils were unexpectedly sitting at home.
    “We stayed in the Top Ten in the state all season long, were the No. 1 seed on our side of the region and got swept in the first round of the playoffs,” explained Statesboro coach Chris Bishop. “We knew we were better, we kept hitting the ball hard, but the harder we tried, the more plays they made.”
    The game of baseball can be funny that way, and Bishop and the Devils won’t make any excuses coming into the 2007 season. Despite losing such bats as Jake Ware, Josh McCook and David Jones from the line up, expectations are as high as always.
    Pitching should be a big advantage for SHS, which opens the season today at South Effingham. Sophomore left-handers Crawford Simmons and Zack Taylor logged a lot of innings last season and will be key in the Devils’ pitching rotation. Bishop tabbed Forrest Robertson to be the leader of his pitchers and expects junior Josh Ware to battle back from injuries and hold a closer role on the staff.
    “The next biggest key is our catching situation,” said Bishop. “We got a junior in Neal Shroff and a sophomore in Scott Sarratt that’s going to be vying for time behind the plate. We’re only going to be as good on the mound as we are behind the plate.”
    The most important hole to fill in the SHS line up is the two hole, according to Bishop. Junior Tony Hill may be that answer, but Bishop said the starting nine could look unconventional by the time first pitch rolls around. Daniel Whitt, one of six seniors on the roster, will also be right in the thick of things.
    “We got some leadoff guys and we got some guys to bat near the bottom, but it’s in the middle where we’re really going to look the same,” said Bishop. “In all honesty, we’ll probably going to go with who’s hot.”
    The Devils will also have to adjust to a new home field this season. With progressive construction taking place on campus, Statesboro will move out to Mill Creek Park. Bishop said his team’s new home is one of the finest to be found in all of Georgia and thanked Dr. Jessie Strickland and the Board of Education for their continued support.
    Today marks the beginning of a brutal non-conference schedule for SHS. The Devils will travel to north Georgia this weekend for a doubleheader in Oconee County and head to Valdosta later this year. They’ll host a tournament beginning Friday, March 9 with Effingham, Lee County and Camden County. Region 3-AAAA isn’t a cakewalk either, and Bishop called it one of the tougher regions in all the state.