So who are these Rutland High School Hurricanes that will blow into town tomorrow to face Thomson High in the first round of the state baseball playoffs?
It is hard to know much about a school that is only six years old but I'll give it the old college try in sharing with you what I have found out. I had heard of Rutland but to be honest I assumed it was one of the plethora of new schools that popped up in metro Atlanta during the past few years. Not so.
Rutland is one of seven high schools in the Bibb County School System, located of course, in Macon, Ga. The school's website emphasizes that it is situated in the county's southeastern section. Until this school year, its athletic teams have competed in GHSA Class AA, so the school has obviously seen a recent growth spurt.
The Hurricane's baseball program may not yet match the legendry status of their college counterparts, The University of Miami Hurricanes, but they are trying hard. Their colors are green and orange and their uniforms look similar. On the diamond, they appear to be making great strides in establishing a Miami-like tradition as well.
Coach Wally Pritchard took over the baseball team in 2007 following a 9-15 season in 2006 and an 11-15 record in 2005 under a previous coach. Pritchard promptly reversed the baseball fortunes of Rutland High School.
In 2007 the Hurricanes record improved to 16-10, including a 12-4 mark in Region 5-AA. They lost to Dawson County two games to none in round one of the state playoffs. Dawson County was subsequently eliminated in the second round.
Last year, Rutland's record was 18-8 and again they went 12-4 in the region, good enough for second place. Armuchee High School eliminated the Hurricanes in the first round of the state playoffs two games to none. Like Dawson County the year before, Armuchee lost in the second round of state two games to zip.
Counting this season's 14-10 record, Coach Pritchard has compiled an overall mark of 48 wins and 28 losses in his three years at the helm of the Hurricanes. That's nothing to sneeze at for a relatively new school in an urban area. They also have two successive years of state playoff experience under their belt. Pritchard clearly knows what it takes to get a team into the playoffs.
This season Rutland split the series with all three schools that finished above them in the Region 4-AAA standings. They defeated 18-3 Spalding 5-3 and lost 3-2. They lost to Woodward Academy 6-1 and beat them 9-7. Mary Persons (19-6) beat Rutland 3-2 and lost to them 2-0. The Hurricanes also split with a solid Perry High club from 1-AAA who compiled a 15-9 mark.
Since we are Thomson the "what about football" question certainly lingers out there. Not that it means anything to baseball, but for the record Rutland is 21-40 in football in the history of the school. Their best season was 7-4 in 2007.
I expect this series to be a tight and likely low scoring affair, at least through games one and two. If it comes down to a third game the team with the most pitching depth will have an advantage. Playing at home and in the state playoffs for the first time since 2006, Thomson could experience a case of the early jitters. Thomson's four seniors were freshmen when the Bulldogs lost to Spalding two games to one in Griffin.
Rutland will come in with more state playoff experience though it has been an unsuccessful experience. They clearly will be hungry to change their fortune which could also make them press a little. I look forward to seeing how things go at 4 p.m. Friday.