East Jackson welcomes back several familiar faces as a new era commences for its baseball program.
First-year Eagle coach Tedd Sims inherits a roster that includes six seniors — Austin Thomas (pitcher-outfielder), Walker Brooks (infielder), Cody Nix (pitcher-outfielder), Josh Adair (outfielder-catcher-second base), Luke Hadden (third base-pitcher) and Austin Smith (whose status was questionable due to a preseason injury).
First baseman, Nick Clapper, is another key upperclassman who leads a large junior class.
“I would agree that I’ve got a pretty good nucleus with a group of older guys … I’ll have six seniors and seven juniors,” said Sims, who comes to East Jackson after working as an assistant at Peachtree Ridge for a decade. “I’m looking at guys all over the field trying to find where the best fit for our team is.”
East Jackson will open its season Feb. 13 at Clark Central.
In addition to a veteran roster, this Eagle squad has demonstrated good chemistry as it seeks to rebuild from a 2-24 season a year ago.
“I see this team’s success coming together with being a good, close group of kids that work hard together,” Sims said.
The coach said seven arms have emerged to handle East Jackson’s pitching load this year, pointing to (in no particular order) Thomas, Hadden, Nix, Wes Bruce (junior), Brian Puckett (junior), Caleb Adair (freshman) and Josh Compton (freshman).
Sims said all seven have shown the ability to locate pitches and dominate the strike zone.
“That’s my biggest thing,” Sims said. “I want to see strikes. I can’t handle walks.”
This group will have to rely on sound pitching and defense, foremost, and look to play sound situational baseball offensively, according to Sims.
Sims said Region 8-AAA is all new to him, but he expressed tremendous respect for all the region’s coaches.
Jefferson and Oconee County both moved up to 8-AAAA, but Franklin County joins 8-AAA after a 28-4 season a year ago and Jackson County returns after advancing to the Class AAA Final Four last season. Hart County won 17 games last year and advanced to the state playoffs.
“I think it’s going to be a war every time we step on the ball field,” Sims said. “That’s what you want as a coach, you want your team to compete.”
With the program coming off a two-win season, East Jackson won’t garner a lot of preseason hype, Sims said.
“I know we’re going to be projected to be in the bottom of the barrel, which is fine with me,” he said. “I’m not opposed to flying under the radar.”
As far as gauging success, Sims will take a more process-oriented approach for year one — one that takes into account improvement over the course of the year and whether or not it competed in each game.
“If the answer to that question is yes, then I’ll be OK with whatever the results are,” Sims said.