Bainbridge baseball team ready to swing for the fences

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Despite its young roster, the 2016 Bainbridge Bearcat baseball team has the talent to go up against any team.

Bainbridge’s first game of the season against another team is Wednesday for a scrimmage against Valdosta at the BHS fields. They kick off the regular season schedule with a home game next Monday against Pelham.

“We’re talented, but we’re young,” Coach Brian McCorkle said. “We’ll have possibly as many as five sophomores on the field at one time. We’ll be awfully young, but we have to be sure the handful of seniors we have are setting an example. Whatever their role is, they’re living up to that.”

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Many positions are still up in the air, McCorkle said, with first base being the biggest battle for a starter. Seniors Russell Wheeler and Ty Varnum and sophomore Dustin Hodge are each looking to claim the position.

More importantly, though, McCorkle is looking for players who can move around when needed.

“We really have this year a lot of guys that can move around,” McCorkle said. “When we have to move this guy to the mound and this guy here, we won’t fall off as much as we have in the past.”

On the mound, five players are gunning for a starter spot, but McCorkle said up to 10 players can pitch if need be. Having those options gives the coaches and players a chance to change the field depending on the situation.

Noah Bryant will be starting as catcher as well as pitcher. Sophomore Will Kelley will be returning to third base after a strong freshman year and junior Keith Lyle will be returning to short stop.

“Everybody is going to have to do their part and have the right attitude,” Lyle said. “We can’t let all the hype and extracurricular stuff get in the way. Stay focused. We can’t let the game get bigger than us.”

Second base is a battle between Griffin Long and Connor Strickland, both of which are all-around talents that can be moved around where needed, McCorkle said.

In the outfield, junior Clark Wiggins will be handling left field, with junior Carson Inlow in center field and sophomore Caleb Boutwell in right field. Senior Tyler Storey, another outfielder, is expected to join the roster when wrestling season ends in the next couple of weeks.

According to McCorkle, Region 1-AAAA is wide open, with all teams having the potential to win a Region Championship. But Thomas County Central and Cairo are the biggest challenges, he said.

“Central is the team to beat,” McCorkle said. “Cairo has (Cage) Cox and the best pitcher in the region with (Emerson) Hancock. Then there is Cordele, Worth County, us, Cook County. I think we’re all about the same, but it just comes down to how we perform when the lights come on.”

Wheeler said beating those teams in the region will come down to every player filling their roll and playing their part on the team.

Every year, the goal is to make the playoffs. But it’s also about having fun and getting better every day.

“We want to make the playoffs,” McCorkle said. “But our No. 1 thing is we are having fun and getting better. We want to beat our rivals and make the playoffs. That’s our goals every year. We’ve got the potential to do it.”

Bainbridge scrimmages Valdosta Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the BHS fields.