In just a few days the Thomson High School Bulldogs take to the diamond to begin their 2009 baseball season.
No one seems anymore excited about the upcoming season than legendary Thomson Head Coach Terry Holder, who begins his fourth season with the Bulldogs.
Thomson will travel to Evans to take on the Lakeside Panthers in their season opener on Saturday at 3 p.m. A couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs hosted the Westside Patriots in a scrimmage game and defeated the Pats 6-3.
The Bulldogs' first home game of the season is scheduled for Tuesday, March 10, at 6 p.m. against the Screven County Gamecocks at the Thomson field. Three days later, they will do battle against Richmond Hill (Friday, March 13) at 6 p.m. in their first region game of the season.
"We're excited about the season," Coach Holder said during an interview last Thursday. "We're still a fairly young team even though we're experienced at a lot of positions."
Coach Holder pointed out that his varsity team is one of the "best bunches" of players he's had since coming to Thomson.
"They work real hard and do a good job, overall for us," he added.
This year's team will be anchored by four seniors. They are: Will Anderson, the starting first baseman and a starting pitcher; Zack Washington, second baseman; Jake Unokur, left fielder; and Jonathan Talkington, catcher.
The team also consists of three juniors - Korey Austin, Cody Ewest and Drake Smallwood. There also are eight sophomores and eight freshmen on the team.
The sophomores include: Jesse Usry, Dontavis Brown, Nick Rau, Phillip Anderson, Abram Cartledge, Will Tankersley, Nic Wood and Cody Corbitt. The freshman players include: Josh Jones, Hunter Brinkman, Chad Austin, Brett Jenkins, Matthew Connor, John Holloway, Austin Cooper and Andy Grimaud.
Even though the numbers are down from what coaches would like to have in terms of seniors, "we're very proud of the players we have, because they're quality players," Coach Holder said. "They understand a lot of the intangibles of the game."
Spring football practice, which lasts two weeks, began last Monday at the school and will continue through this Friday.
The veteran skipper admitted that football practice has hampered the Bulldogs, somewhat, "but it's just one of those things you just have to work around this time of the year. A lot of teams will be ahead of us by a couple of weeks. We feel bad about it, but we'll work through it."
Because of realignment by officials with the Georgia High School Association, Thomson will be playing against a number of "pretty good" baseball teams this season, Coach Holder said. Aside from playing against such notable teams as Washington and Burke counties, the Bulldogs also will be pitted against new region opponents like West Laurens, Liberty County and Richmond Hill.
"We're looking for our region to be highly competitive," Coach Holder said, noting he's hopeful that his Bulldogs will be ready to vie for a region championship and a spot in the state playoffs. "We'll just have to see how it turns out."
The success of the team will largely depend on the pitching staff. Thomson sophomore pitcher Phillip Anderson will be the team's number one pitcher in the rotation.
"Phillip had an exceptionally good year as a pitcher and hitter for us his freshman year," Coach Holder said.
Abram Cartledge, another sophomore pitcher, is expected to be the team's number two pitcher. "Abram has got a lot of potential and is still learning how to pitch," Coach Holder said. "He's getting better."
Will Anderson, Phillip's older brother, will be the team's third big pitcher. "We're expecting Will to have a real good season for us on the mound, at first base and with the bat. He's been hitting the ball real well at practices."
Two other pitchers expected to help the Bulldogs are both freshmen in Andy Grimaud and former Hephzibah transfer student Hunter Brinkman. "Both of those young boys look promising to us," Coach Holder said.
Jonathan "JT" Talkington, meanwhile, will be the Bulldogs' starting catcher. "Jonathan has had a tremendous pre-season for us," Coach Holder said. "He's throwing a lot better and hitting real well. His leadership is coming around real well, too."
As far as other positions in the infield go, Thomson appears rock-solid.
Cody Ewest will figure prominently in the lineup, playing third base and swinging the bat well. "This marks his third year as a starter and he's done a tremendous job for us," Coach Holder said. "We're looking for big things out of Cody again this season."
Nick Rau, who played some third base last season as a freshman, has been shifted to shortstop this season. "He's come a long way," Coach Holder said. "We have a lot of high hopes for him."
Zack Washington, who played shortstop last season, has shifted over to play second base and has been "most impressive," during practice sessions of late, according to Coach Holder. "His glove has just been great at second base. And he's swinging the bat good, too."
Will Anderson will play first base when he's not working on the mound.
In the outfield, Thomson will showcase another one of their talented seniors - Jake Unokur. The Thomson center fielder will be Dontavis "Juicy" Brown, while the right fielder will be Will Tankersley.
"All three of our starting outfielders can run adequately, catch and throw well and have pretty good bats," Coach Holder said.
The team's designated hitter will be Jesse Usry, who also will see some action in the outfield from time to time this season. "We've been pleased with what we've seen from Jesse in pre-season," Coach Holder added. "We believe he's going to help us with a little pop from his bat."