I am looking forward to the journey.Rebels head coach Chris Johnson
SPRINGFIELD — With just one week left until the Effingham County baseball team takes the diamond, positions are still up for grabs.
Last year’s team boasted 10 seniors and it was understood their experience and leadership was much needed. Their departure has opened the door for players young and old to showcase their talent and dedication in practice, a sight that has been enjoyable for head coach Chris Johnson.
“They are battling it out,” he said. “They’ve been told that and we practice this way that every position is up for grabs. Nothing is written in stone.
“Last year with the seniors, there was still competition, but those kids had been playing in their spots for two years and this was going to be their third year doing it. It was kind of hard to unseat those guys.
“What you see right now is an open spot at every position. We even have a freshman trying to battle for those positions so it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
When it comes to pitching, the Rebels will rely heavily on Garrett Miller and Merritt Evans.
“Both of them are going to have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders,” Johnson said. “Merritt has a little bit more experience on that level but Garrett has the stuff to be really good as well. We have a couple of juniors who are battling it out for the No. 3 position.
“They are all hard workers and I am confident they are going to do the things we are asking them to do.”
The Rebels will open the season Feb. 10 at fierce rival South Effingham.
“It makes it kind of tough because a lot of the times those rival games are emotional games, but I think it’s fun for the kids and it builds excitement,” Johnson said. “The other thing, too, is they are really good. (Coach Todd Eubanks) does a good job over there and for us to be able to step on the field and play competition right off the bat makes our kids work harder preparing for that first game.”
Last season, Effingham County plowed its way through a postseason run that many thought would have ended after the second round. Johnson believes the Rebels, who advanced to the semifinals, have the right mentality to shock Georgia high school baseball again.
“I think they have a sincere belief that we can be successful and have a chance to take ourselves back to where we were last year,” he said. “I think they also realize the hard work that’s put into it. Last year was a lot of fun to come in with a great group of seniors who had done a lot of great things over their career and for it to culminate the way it did was awesome.
“Our personal belief is we have a chance to have a really good baseball team. I think we will get better as we move through the season. We are going to have a fairly young baseball team with only six seniors.
“I think the program is going in the right direction and we have the ability to have a really good baseball season.”
Currently, Johnson is keeping his focus centered on the team’s opening week, which includes four games, but he’s also eager to see where it will end up in May.
“I am looking forward to the journey,” Johnson said. “Where is it going to take us? I enjoy watching the kids grow as young men and baseball players. They are maturing each day.
“You see the leadership coming out of some of them who were quiet or not leaders before. That’s what I enjoy about the whole thing.”