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Ready for first pitch
Statesboro storms into 2016 baseball season
Statesboro High shortstop Bailey Brown chases down a grounder in the middle of a win over Bradwell Institute during the 2015 season.. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    The Blue Devils are ready for a new season after finishing 2015 with a 9-14 overall record. Statesboro ended last season with a pair of losses to Camden County in the region playoffs.
    This year, the senior-laden Blue Devils will try to improve offensively and fight for a state playoff berth in a tough region.
    The Blue Devils already experienced their first taste of baseball action in a scrimmage game against Emanuel County Institute.
    Statesboro edged ECI in an impressive 7-2 win, Thursday.
    The Blue Devils will play in their first regular season game today at Mill Creek against Calvary Day. Statesboro and the Cavaliers will face off at 6 p.m.
    Here’s a look at some important aspects of this year’s Blue Devils’ squad:

Ahead of the class
    The Blue Devils have a big senior class this season, featuring 12 returning juniors from last year’s team. SHS will also add eight juniors to this year’s roster.
    The Blue Devils lost standout Blakely Brown from last year’s squad. The Statesboro standout spends his days playing for the University of Georgia.
    SHS will also be without Nick Robinson.
    However, Statesboro baseball head coach Jim Simmons said it isn’t just his senior class that will lead this team in the future.
    “We have a couple of sophomores like Chris Reagin that we expect to lead. Also junior Dalton Ross. Just the way he carries himself and the way he approaches the game,” Simmons said. “We’ve got guys spread out and it helps guys understand we’re not just looking for seniors to lead.”

New Attitude
    At the plate, the Blue Devils struggled last year. In the region playoff matchup last year with Camden County, SHS scored just two runs in two games. Simmons said hitting is something his team has worked on in the offseason.
    The Blue Devils aren’t known as a power hitting team. Regardless, Simmons said a different approach to hitting, implemented by the newest addition to the Statesboro coaching staff—Russ Winter—should help the team.
    “At times and we struggled to score runs in big numbers. Teams like Richmond Hill and Effingham can throw up some big numbers,” Simmons said. “(Russ Winter) has put the guys in different drills and how we go through batting practice.”
    Simmons said he was pleased with the way his team swung the bat against ECI.

Pitching Perfect
    In a small glimpse of what the Blue Devils’ pitching staff may look like in the upcoming season, SHS sent seven different pitchers to the mound against ECI—each pitching an inning a piece.
    The result, no walks for Statesboro.
    Only two pitchers gave up earned runs and as a unit, the Blue Devils pitching staff struck out 11 batters.
    “On paper, we’d be crazy to say that pitching isn’t our strength this year. On paper we would say pitching is our strength, but that still remains to be seen,” Simmons said. “We were pleased with our pitchers (against ECI). We pounded the strike zone.”
    In just one inning of work, pitcher Braxton Johns struck out two batters and gave up no hits. Chandler Smith also struck out two with no hits in one inning of work.
    “I’m pleased with our progress,” said Simmons.