LowcoSports HS Baseball Preview

High school baseball season is upon us, and two local teams are set to defend their region championships with many more area squads trying to knock them off.

Bluffton brings back most of the key players from last year’s Region 8-3A championship squad, but the Bobcats should be challenged by crosstown rival May River in the Sharks’ second season.

Hilton Head Christian Academy returns eight starters from last year’s team that made the SCISA 2A semifinals, and the Eagles also have Michael Graupner back after missing most of the past two seasons due to injury.

The Region 8-4A race should be a good one again after three region teams advanced to the Lower State tournament last year. Colleton County is the defending region champion, but runner-up Beaufort High and third-place finisher Hilton Head High are both positioned to challenge the Cougars and make another deep run in the playoffs. The Eagles bring back loads of depth, while the Seahawks lost two All-State players to graduation in Class 4A Player of the Year Carmen Mlodzinski and Logan Toomer and will rely on a talented group of JV call-ups.

BATTERY CREEK

Coach: Jason Colson (1st season)

2017 record: 4-12

2017 playoff results: 0-2 in 3A district tournament

Returning starters: 6

Top returners: Tyler Hofmann, Armani Gibbs, Austin Stephens, Trent Thompson, Jacob Rye

Key losses: Matt Caton, Dallas Higuet

Key newcomers: Ean White, Austin Maroney, Reily Doray, Elijah Rodriguez

Coach’s outlook: It’s my goal to be a role model and mentor for my student-athletes. I will teach them vital life skills that go along with their education and athletic futures. These life skills include: honesty, respect for themselves and others, determination, discipline, dedication and teamwork, both in the classroom and on the field. I do not and will not put winning ahead of

these life skills. I will also guide them on how to win and lose respectfully. I will accomplish this by demonstrating how to treat other teams, umpires and fans with respect and sportsmanship, win or lose. Lastly, I will instruct my student-athletes on proper baseball skills, techniques and strategies to be successful and aspire to play baseball in college or even professionally.

BEAUFORT HIGH

Coach: Keith Riley (5th season)

2017 record: 22-9

2017 playoff results: Class 4A district champions

Top returners: Cooper Woods, Drew Luckey, Wade Olivarri, Jeffrey Smyth

Key losses: Rome Wallace, Brice Adkins

Key newcomers: Paul Winland, Ethan Graham

Coach’s outlook: We are deep at every position.

BLUFFTON

Coach: Bryant Kitty (14th season)

2017 record: 14-5, Region 8-3A champions

2017 playoff results: 1-2 in 3A district tournament

Returning starters: 9

Top returners: Sean Sutay, Cody Eldridge, Hunter Eldridge, Griffin Yeager, Noah Simonsen, Jordan Kennedy, Jimmy Nowakowski, Lukas Pulice, Shane Farmer

Key losses: Trenton Dailey, Cam Bent, Grayson Lowe, Henry Holmberg, Hartley Smith

Key newcomers: Tyler Livingston, Anthony Storzieri, Joey Black, Dillon Montenegro, Joe DiCarlo, Jett Trerotola, Rakim White

Coach’s outlook: Our players had a great offseason and preseason weight training & conditioning program.  We have some experienced players and look forward to them leading us into postseason play.

HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN

Coach: Matt Smith (5th season)

2017 record: 17-7, region champions

2017 playoff results: Reached SCISA 2A semifinals

Returning starters: 8

Top returners: Dargan Cherry, John Burke, John Blackshire, JD Monts, Michael Graupner, Connor Handy

Key losses: James Bartholomew, Zach Whitton, Alex Brown

Key newcomers: Reese Malon, JP Peduzzi

Coach’s outlook: We return a lot of starters, including our top three pitchers, and we have experience and depth with 19 on the roster. If we can be better defensively this year we should be able to compete in every game we play.

HILTON HEAD HIGH

Coach: Ken Soucy (2nd season)

2017 record: 23-6

2017 playoff results: Reached Class 4A Lower State final

Returning starters: 3

Top returners: Jeff Hays, Jake Roberts

Key losses: Carmen Mlodzinski, Eric Foggo, Dalton Shaw, Logan Toomer

Key newcomers: Colin Gross, JJ Mlodzinski, Dean Seelbach

Coach’s outlook: We have a group of hard-working, motivated guys. We will be successful if we pitch well and play good defense. We’re looking for a big impact from a number of young players coming up from last year’s JV team that finished 18-7.

JOHN PAUL II

Coach: Pete Birmingham (5th season)

2017 record: 12-12

2017 playoff results: Did not qualify

Returning starters: 7

Top returners: Mark Tigges, Adrian Skipper, Brad Tigges, Thomas Kender, Jack Jolley

Key losses: Niko Laing

Key newcomers: Ray Johnson

Coach’s outlook: We have a great group of four seniors who have led the program for all five years of the program. We expect to be competitive against every team we play. Pitching depth is a strength for us, but how much we hit will determine how much we win.

MAY RIVER

Coach: Keith Stewart (2nd season)

2017 record: 9-10

2017 playoff results: 0-2 in Class 3A district tournament

Returning starters: 7

Top returners: P/3B Josh Patterson, CF Jeffrey Hodge, P/UT Cooper George

Key losses: P Ryan Sullivan

Key newcomers: C Tater Goodson, P Nick Bass

Coach’s outlook: We’re very excited to get our second season underway at May River. We have a good mix of returners and new players that are molding well together . After finishing third in the region last year, we are hoping to improve our status and look forward to strong competition within and outside our region play.

RIDGELAND-HARDEEVILLE

Coach: James McNeal (4th season)

2017 record: 4-13

2017 playoff results: Did not qualify

Returning starters: 7

Top returners: Derald Nelson, Tymir Fields, Stephan Fuller, Allen Delouche, Myles Pinckney, Tyresse Darien, Ty’Quan Jenkins

Key losses: Kamrin Widdy

Key newcomers: Ervin Santiago, Jabari Williams

Coach’s outlook: I want my players to understand the game of baseball. We have great players, but we need to limit our errors.

THOMAS HEYWARD

Coach: Leon Etheridge (1st season)

2017 record: 11-10

2017 playoff results: Lost in SCISA 2A first round

Returning starters: 4

Top returners: Zack Bond, Devin Scott, Louis Smith, Bryce Tillotson

Key losses: Blake Bannon, Spencer Hexamer

Key newcomers: Noah Ehlers, Peyton Bennett, Fulton Wade

Coach’s outlook: There won’t be a lot of changes in my first year as head coach, as I’ve assisted under Nic Shuford for the past eight seasons. We will play aggressive baseball and try to put pressure on the other teams to make plays defensively. We have a good mix of upperclassmen and young guys. I know what I will get out of our veteran players on a game-to-game basis.  The success of our younger players will determine how far we go.

WHALE BRANCH

Coach: Emanuel Wheeler (3rd season)

2017 record: 4-11

2017 playoff results: 0-2 in 2A district tournament

Returning starters: 3

Top returners: Jaren Cantorn, Irvin Mulligan, De’Arius Hazel

Key losses: Ryan Murray-Green, Steven Colon

Key newcomers: Henry Tome

Coach’s outlook: I’m looking for the guys to have a great season and continue to learn the great game of baseball and give 100 percent in everything that they do.

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