You may need a program if you go to a Statesboro baseball game this season, as the Blue Devils return only two starters from last year, and will have a completely new pitching staff as well.
Last year, a senior oriented Statesboro team went 9-23. The Blue Devils did manage to earn the No. 4 seed in the region, and advanced to the state tournament, where they were swept by Locust Grove.
This time around, the Blue Devils basically start from scratch. The only returning starters are senior infielder Davis Wiggins, and senior outfielder Wright Rocket.
“The effort and coachability we are getting out of the kids is fantastic,” said Statesboro coach Jim Simmons. “The guys that have stuck with us, we feel are pulling for each other, and we are excited."
On offense and defense the Blue Devils will have to count on many players whose only high school experience is on the junior varsity level.
“At this point, nothing stands out as to anything we are doing remarkably well in any aspect of the game,” Simmons said. “The good thing is we aren’t really doing anything poorly either. We haven’t played a real game yet, and I feel that will show us more where and pluses and minuses are.”
Much like the offense and defense, pitching is another area of concern. Simmons knows he has some talented arms, but they are also unproven on the varsity high school level.
“Cole Leggett and Ashton Bradley are two seniors will be looking to, as well as Wright Rocket who will be returning to the mound after a few years away,” Simmons said. “As for our juniors we have Dillon Ross leading the way, along with Bryce Westerfield, Bradley Gronefeld, Eddie Mitchell and Andrew Williamson. We will also be looking to sophomores like Michael Mascarello, and a few others as well.”
Simmons used seven different pitchers in the Blue Devils 2-2 pre-season game with ECI, something he is expecting to do again in the Blue Devil’s season opener Wednesday against Jeff Davis.
“I like what we have seen from all our pitchers,” Simmons said. “They are throwing strikes, and that’s important. I plan on throwing six or seven guys again Wednesday against Jeff Davis.”
With so many new faces Simmons doesn’t really know who will be playing a specific position, or even whether they will be on the varsity or JV.
“It’s really a fluid situation,” Simmons said. “There are going to be a lot of different combinations out there, because a lot of the guys that pitch will also be playing a different position. I foresee guys coming up and playing varsity a few games, then going back and getting some reps on the JV. There may be some guys that fulfill a role on the varsity temporarily, but in the long run we want them at another position that they can play during JV games.”
The new faces are not only going to seen on the field, but in the dugout as well as coach Simmons welcomes in a few new assistant coaches. Joining the staff are football head coach Jeff Kaiser, former Coffee County head coach Josh Cole, and lay coach Michael Lattizori.
“Russ Winter is still here and going a great job, but we have added a few coaches as well,” Simmons said. “Coach Cole came over to help with football, and I was glad the bug got him to help with baseball as well. He is kind of our offensive coordinator, and helping the infield. Coach Kaiser is helping with our outfielders.”
Statesboro opens the regular season Wednesday at 6:00 at Mill Creek Regional Park as they host Jeff Davis.