The Statesboro baseball team will get a big early-season test this week as the "Blue Devil Diamond Days" take place at Mill Creek Regional Park.
The Blue Devils will take on a pair of perennial state powers as they matchup with Calvary Day tonight and square off against Lee County Saturday afternoon.
Effingham County and Appling County will also be in attendance at the tournament and will be featured in games played on Friday and Saturday.
"This is a great chance for some teams from around the state to get some quality competition," said SHS coach Chris Bishop. "It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to host this event last season, but we are looking forward to this weekend and think that this will be a great event for years to come."
Statesboro enters tonight’s game looking to bounce back from a tough opening night loss to Metter Monday. A few timely Tiger hits and some fielding issues put the Devils in an early 7-0 hole, but they showed their ability to fight and stay in games as they clawed to within 10-9 and got the tying run to third base before finally bowing out.
As it was with the game against Metter, the matchups with Calvary and Lee County offers Bishop a chance to evaluate where his team is at before the Devils begin Region 2-AAAA play at South Effingham March 8.
"In these first few games, you want to see where some things can be changed or moved around," said Bishop. "With our depth issues, playing so many games in a week forces us to make those changes."
The most tinkering will likely come on the pitcher’s mound as John Eddie Hodges, Calk Minick, Todd Cone and Chris Lusted are all gone from last season’s team and promising sophomore Tyler Brown is still recovering from an arm injury.
"We don’t have one dominant guy, but we have six or seven guys that we can throw out there," said Bishop. "We want to put them in mindset that any of them can come into a game and get some outs when we need them. The games this weekend will definitely be a test of that."
As for the batting order, Bishop stated that some things may get shifted around, but that he wasn’t anticipating any major changes.
The Devils have plenty of speed with Hayden Rollins and Kendrick Thompson at the top of the order and the trio of Lance Mangrum, Josh Mee and Ben Saunders will be depended on to account for much of the run production from the middle of the order.
"It’s all about getting the right guys up to bat in the right situation," said Bishop. "We’ll use these early games to figure out what lineups and orders give us the best chance to compete and then we’ll take that into region play and have everyone prepared to win some ballgames."
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.