It's a whole new ballgame.
After finishing last year with a 14-11 overall record and a 9-5 mark in their region, the Briarwood Academy Varsity Baseball team kicks off their Region I-AA campaign Friday against Nathanael Greene.
Kelsey Jones swings at a pitch during practice Monday afternoon.
Jason B. Smith
Despite a disappointing exit in the first round of the GISA state playoffs last year, Head Coach Charlie May said that if his team gets a few breaks this season, they have the potential of advancing far into the playoffs.
"I feel like we have the ability to win our region, quite frankly, I really do," he said. "It's a very tough region, but we have the capability of doing it, and that's one of our goal. I think once we get to the playoffs, we're very capable of going deep in the playoffs. It's up to (the players) how they want to finish off their senior season."
The Bucs have already started this season off with a bang -- they defeated a squad made up of Augusta homeschoolers last week, 19-7. Outfielder Jason Holley had a single, double, triple and six RBIs.
But make no mistake: Things are different from last season. Completely.
The Bucs unexpectedly lost two of their best players -- Will Holley and Brandon Norman -- since last year. Norman provided speed at the leadoff position and was a rock in the outfield. Holley was the boom in the middle of the lineup.
"These kids have gone through a lot this year," said Coach May of his team. "Losing those two is very critical to us, not only from an athletic standpoint but the fact that we're a big family."
Still, Coach May said he sees plenty of bright spots in his team.
One of the most immediate changes from last year is the addition of several seniors. Last season the Bucs played the season without a single senior on their roster.
Also important, Coach May said, was the depth in his pitching rotation this year. Last season, the Bucs only had two capable pitchers -- Jason Holley and Andrew Brown. This year, Coach May said his rotation is five deep.
"I've got a lot of confidence in my pitching staff this year," he said. "We have more depth in pitching than at any time in the three years I've been here."
Besides Brown and Holley, Coach May noted the additions of Blake Stitcher, Dustin Pilgrim, and the transfer of Donny Demore from Harlem as huge boosts to his pitching staff and to his team.
At the plate, the Bucs will be looking to replace the power supplied by Will Holley. His cousin, Jason, has the potential to have a breakout offensive season.
"Jason has gotten bigger and stronger. I look to him to produce more," said Coach May, who has Holley penciled in at the cleanup position.
Donny Demore makes the turn at third.
Jason B. Smith
Defensively, Coach May expects consistency this season, despite the loss of Norman in the outfield. Unfortunately, shortstop Bob Wills is nursing a wrist injury left over from basketball season. His status is still unknown for Friday's game.
Other than Wills, Coach Mays mentioned second baseman Josh Gardner and catcher T.J. Mimbs as seniors he hopes will lead the way defensively.
"Mimbs is an excellent catcher," he said.