SPRINGFIELD — Even though Class AAAAAA is by far one of the most competitive classifications in the state for baseball, Effingham County has held its own against the league’s outstanding pitchers and hitters.
Rebels coach Brett Griffin hopes that trend will continue in 2018.
“In certain areas, we’ve got to rebuild,” Griffin said. “Some of our young guys haven’t had those varsity innings.”
Griffin doesn’t shy away from competition and purposely booked teams that can be labeled as quality wins.
“When I schedule our opponents, I try to schedule the best ones out there,” he said. “I want to build a schedule that challenges us and I think we’ve done that. We could very easily start off behind the 8-ball if we don’t play well but I like our chances. These guys work hard. They like coming to the ball park.
“I like these guys.”
The Rebels, who won’t have last year’s ace, Curtis Johnson, will utilize the first few games of the season to assess their strengths and weaknesses.
“Curtis Johnson was our pitcher every Monday,” Griffin said. “He gave us a lot of quality innings. All of our seniors helped us out a lot. We just have to figure out who can play where.
“The good thing about that is we have a lot of games early where we can try different lineups and see who can fill in where.”
The Rebels have quite a few experienced players returning, including Perry Fulcher and most of the infielders.
“Ethan Johnson, Colton Long and Blake Vincent have significant time on the mound,” Griffin said. “We have a good mixture of new guys coming in, plus some returners. Hopefully, we can hit it in stride and those guys won’t miss a beat.”
Griffin will rely heavily on his veterans, saying he doesn’t plan on playing too many underclassmen.
“Things change over the course of the season,” Griffin said. “Right now, we have two sophomores dressing out with us and that is Austin Mealor and Chrys Hawkins. We plan on having both of those guys fill in specific roles for us.”
While Griffin has been pleased with the work ethic of his entire team during the offseason, it’s the headship of his senior group that has him feeling good about where the team is headed.
“I hate to put a finger on one them because these kids have worked hard,” Griffin said. “We’ve seen a lot of growth in several of our kids. [But] this senior class has taken hold of the leadership role and they are doing a really good job of that right now.”
The Rebels will open the season at home Tueday at 6 p.m. against South Effingham