There’s an element of enthusiasm and excitement around the Jones County baseball program. And it has nothing to do with wins and losses.
After COVID-19 quickly halted last season after the Greyhounds were appearing to hit their stride after a slow start, JCHS is eager to make its way to the diamond again.
“It’s actually been a lot of fun just from day one, just being able to see the kids pick up a baseball,” Greyhounds head coach Jason Page said. “For us, March 13 was very disheartening with everything being shut down immediately like it was. Now, for them to be out there and able to throw and hit the ball, you can see in their faces and the coaches’ faces how excited they are to be out there and play. It seems like the kids are much more appreciative to just practice. They are really excited to be out there. This season, we are really chomping at the bit to compete versus somebody.”
The Greyhounds were scheduled to open their season on Tuesday of this week at home against Perry while also hosting West Laurens on Thursday. The first region contest is March 10 at home against Union Grove.
Between now and then, the task for JCHS is to continue to build on last year’s momentum and also take advantage of what Page says is one of its strengths - speed. A big part of that element rests in the outfield with Javious Bond penciled in to start in left field and Aiden Payne in center field.
During early-season games, a key focal point will be to build on what was also gained late last year - game experience.
“For us, (ending the season on March 13) was really difficult because we had worked through trying to figure out that right lineup, and I think we had finally put pieces in place that would be good for us,” Page said. “We needed some young kids that were helping us out to get some more experience. Now, we’ll have to use this first part of the season to try and get those kids some more experience.”
A big part of that will be relying on the Greyhounds senior class of six that includes right fielder Ben Gordon, second baseman Kendall Wood, pitcher Jacob Thompson and infielder Sutton Kemp plus Garrett Williams, and Bailey Taylor.
Speaking of the infield, Trent Hardy is expected to see a good bit of time in the middle of the infield at shortstop with Thompson at third and when he is not pitching, Kemp and Colin Chapman being options.
“This is probably the most excited I have been about our team in the last four years,” Page said. “I think if we can get some things right, kids can produce like we think they’re capable of, we can be dangerous.
And as far as leadership goes, Jones County has those qualities in two others, first baseman Keagan Baxter and catcher John Alan Richter. Both know plenty about high-pressure moments, having along with Bond being on the Greyhounds state semifinal football team this past year.
“Those guys expect to win,” Page said. “They do a good job of making those around them better.”
“I love our lineup; I think we have a lot of speed. Anytime we get on base, there’s a good chance we’ll be able to steal bases and hopefully turn those into runs,” Page said. “This year, I think our strength will be speed and hopefully, we’ll be able to swing the bats a little bit. If our pitchers can get up there, be competitive and throw strikes, I really think we have a chance to make some noise.”