Boys of summer make swift return
By Greg Sullivan
The boys of summer hit the base paths again Wednesday. Thursday they will let the Gladiators into the arena as the Diamond Dogs host their first summer baseball game in some years when Clarke Central comes calling for a varsity double header.
The Gladiators topped Morgan County 11-10 in a back-and-forth contest in the recent varsity baseball season. Thursday's summer ball double header represents an opportunity for redemption for the Dogs.
"I know our guys will be excited to see them again," said Diamond Dogs Head Coach Brandon Patch. "It's a chance to redeem ourselves for the last time."
Game one Thursday afternoon is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch in Madison.
This week's games, including Thursday's double header and Wednesday's games at Banks County, are just the beginning for the team.
Much of their summer schedule is composed of tournament action, but Patch said he expects the varsity team to play about 19 games in June. The JV team, he said, will likely play about 13 games.
Patch said he expects these summer games to provide crucial game experience for his team.
"We use summer ball as a time we can look at kids in different positions," Patch said. "It really helps our pitchers to get that time on the mound."
Aside from returning players, the season also allows Patch to bring in rising freshmen to see some playing time.
One issue the team will face starting this summer is replacing their seven seniors.
"There'll definitely be some slots to fill," Patch said. "We're going to count on some young guys to really contribute this year. I'm really interested to see what they can do."
The good news for the Dogs, though, going into the summer is that they will be returning the two pitchers that saw the most time on the mound in the spring, cousins Clay and Caleb Duvall.
The team has five rising seniors this season, including Clay Duvall, Dylan Jaskoviak, Eddy Diaz, Dusty Mines and Jameson Foskey.
"I'm expecting a good deal out of the upcoming seniors," Patch said. "We'll rely on them heavily."
The team also brings back a handful of other returning starters. Rising junior Caleb Duvall will return with rising sophomores J.D. Hawkins, Drew Stapleton and Wesley Barrett.
The teams will face a challenging summer schedule to help gear up for their jump to Class AAA competition.
The schedule is highlighted by varsity and JV tournaments including the McEachern Wood Bat Tournament, the North Oconee Tournament. The varsity team will come in the Rome Tournament and the JV squad will compete in the Jones County Tournament.
The JV squad won't have any home games this summer, but the varsity will see yet another double header when Aquinas comes to Madison on Wednesday, June 25.
"A lot of the teams that we're playing are bigger than us," Patch said. "And it' good for us to be challenged."