Heading into baseball season, the Statesboro Blue Devils had just about everything figured out.
With only a few seniors having departed from last season’s squad, the Devils were able to pencil in starters and backups for just about every position.
The pitching rotation was especially rich in veteran experience, but one freshman has battled his way onto the depth chart.
Austin Kleinlein turned enough heads to see some action as a backup quarterback for the varsity football team last fall and has been equally impressive on the mound as spring rolls around.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity,” Kleinlein said. “(Pitching at the varsity level) is challenging, but I’m trying to just throw like I always do. It helps that I have a great defense behind me, so I don’t have to worry too much.”
Kleinlein showed promise in a few short outings as the season began.
Having built up some confidence in the coaching staff, he was sent out to throw three effective innings last Saturday as the Devils defeated Walnut Grove.
“I think that we’re playing pretty well right now,” Kleinlein said. “I’m happy to be able to be a part of it. Right now, all of us think that we can be a pretty good team. We’re just looking forward to playing the teams in our region.”
The early spring weather may still be cool, but the girls tennis team at Screven County is — as usual — red-hot.
The Lady Gamecocks are off to a 4-0 start so far this season and have gotten four singles match wins from junior Jancy Durrence.
Durrence easily carved through Westside, August on Tuesday, but faced one of her toughest challenges against South Effingham last week. Durrence dropped her first set of the day, but battled to take a back-and-forth second set before overpowering her opponent in a 6-0 third set to take the match.
“I was definitely excited to get that win,” Durrence said. “I struggled a little trying to win the second set, but after that, things got a little easier. Playing tough competition makes me a little nervous, but I think that everyone on the team wants to play against the best teams.”
Durrence has had a much easier time in other matches competing at the No. 3 spot in the singles’ lineup. It’s likely that everyone on the squad will get a tough test this weekend as Screven travels to Jekyll Island for the annual Jakyll Jam.
“Jancy would love to move up and play at No. 1 or No. 2,” Screven coach Diane Freeman said. “That’s what is great about our team. Our girls are competitive, but in a good way. They all have different styles and push each other in practice. Because of that, Jancy has really improved her power game and is becoming a complete player.”