Baseball is back

By Justin Hubbard


Spring training games started up this week for teams throughout Major League Baseball.

I will admit I don’t really care about these preseason exhibitions. After all, they are mostly meaningless and have no effect on the regular season (unless someone gets hurt).

I still can’t help getting excited over the fact baseball box scores and highlights have returned. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Baseball is the greatest game ever played. You’ll never convince me otherwise.

But while we wait for the MLB to reach its regular season, which opens Thursday, March 29, let’s talk about the baseball teams throughout Lake Country.

Putnam County’s team is not doing so well right now. The War Eagles were just 1-4 overall entering play this week.

They have a talented crop of players, though, and are in the middle transitioning from former head coach Lee Hamner to Matt Riden. The weather last week was an early reminder that the dog days of summer, as they call it, are coming. And although Putnam baseball might have experienced some dog days so far this season, I think the Eagles could soar pretty soon.

For more on Putnam baseball, check out the story Brandon Bush wrote inside this week’s edition of The Eatonton Messenger.

The Gatewood Gators won’t open their season until March 8 when they host Augusta Prep. They will jump right into the season, as they are set to play six games in 12 days to open the year. If the temperature keeps trending upward at an unusual rate, that’s going to be a tough stretch.

Speaking of tough stretches, the Greene County baseball team’s entire 2017 season was rough. The Tigers went 0-14 and lost every game by at least 10 runs. Ouch.

Fortunately for Greene, I think it has finally found a good coach. Joe Smith took over the program this year in addition to the Greene softball team. Smith told me back during softball season his long-term vision involves changing the softball and baseball culture in the county.

I’ve lived here my entire life. I’ve never seen the masses in Greene care about baseball. If Smith can change that and establish a feeder system from the rec leagues through the high school, then the Tigers could one day become a force in the area. The Tigers have won five games since 2012 – my senior year at GCHS – so it will certainly be an uphill climb.

They’ll have to pay their dues for a while. They were 0-1 entering this week. They have a winnable doubleheader with Lincoln County coming up, so we’ll see if Smith and the Tigers can get the team’s first win since March 1, 2016.

If the Lake Oconee Academy baseball team could find some pitchers, it might be OK.

I’ve been to two Titans games this season and one thing was apparent to me both times: This team has a lot of trouble on the mound. Zach Tolleson and Devin Mitchell started both those games. Tolleson gave up nine earned runs. Mitchell did slightly better, allowing just five runs.

Tolleson and Mitchell are two of just a handful of legitimate pitchers on the team; the rest of the pitchers were other players sent to the mound out of necessity. It’s a tough spot, for sure. I think Tolleson, Mitchell and the other two pitchers I’ve seen – Harrison Toomey and Kunj Sukha – all have potential. I’m interested to see if head coach Jeremy Donaldson and his staff can coach them up to it.

Entering this week, the Titans were 2-5. Region play starts up this week, so it’s go time for this team.

Morgan County’s baseball team is easily the best in our area but it hit a stumbling block this week. The Diamond Dogs lost at North Oconee this past Monday, 13-3.

Head coach Merritt Ainslie told me before the season started that he scheduled tougher opponents to sharpen up his team before region play. So far, the Diamond Dogs are 4-2 as of Tuesday, and they had matchups with Madison County this past Wednesday before facing North Oconee and Prince Avenue Christian in the coming days.

While baseball season’s been a mixed bag at this point, I’m still excited about the fact I get to cover my favorite sport again. I hope our teams pick things up and put together a great baseball season.

After the magical basketball season we’ve experienced, I can’t wait to see what baseball season has in store for Lake Country.

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