The Holy Ground Baptist Academy baseball coach lost a strong core of four seniors — all of which could pitch and two that are playing at the next level — from last season’s state semifinalist squad. So as the Stallions embark on their fourth season in Roopville, they’ll turn to new leaders and hope that some of the growing pains pay dividends when looking at the big picture.
“We knew we’d be young. We’ve basically only got one returning senior that’s played. With that being said, you know it’s going to be tough. On top of that, we only have two returning juniors. So everybody else is 10th [grade] and down,” Perry said.
Garrett Denney is the team’s lone returning senior that started on last year’s fourth-place state finisher, and he’s served as a leader on and off the field for Perry early on in the season, playing just about everywhere in the infield.
“Garrett’s kind of our workhorse in the middle of the field. We move him anywhere from second to third, depending on who’s pitching. We count on his glove — it’s always a sure glove — he plays great defense and his bat is coming around. He’s starting to see the ball a little better. He struggled at the start of the year, but he’s coming on now,” Perry said.
Along with Garrett Denney, juniors Walt Denney and Jordan Edwards also return with quality experience behind them. Perry said as that trio goes, so go the Stallions. The pair of juniors will anchor Holy Ground’s pitching staff, with both bringing big bats to the top of the lineup, as well.
“Walt’s throwing the ball great. In both games, I don’t think he’s gave up more than two earned runs on the year. So he’s throwing the ball well. Jordan’s our returning starting shortstop and he’s been on fire hitting the ball. He’s just been crushing the ball,” Perry said.
Beyond the returning trio, the Stallions don’t possess a great deal of experience, though Perry is excited about Holy Ground’s middle school program cutting its teeth this year and how that will ultimately impact the varsity level in years to come.
“That’s big in getting it started. They’re going to take their lumps, but they’re learning the game,” Perry said. “We’ve got a lot of ninth and 10th-graders coming up this year. They’re doing good. They’re stepping up.”
One issue Holy Ground shared with all teams early in the season was dealing with the weather. And with an already young team to begin with, it’s magnified even more due to the lack of practice time prior to starting games.
“So we kind of feel like we’re a little bit behind, as far as field work and with what we need to get done on the field. And that’s just due to the weather. But coming up this week, we’ve only got a couple of games, so maybe we can get some good practice days in and some good weather and turn it around,” Perry said.
Region foe Covenant Christian Academy is the returning state champion and will once again be a contender for the crown with seven to eight seniors back this season.
“They always seem to load up. They’re playing well. Then the team out of Athens, Westminster, they’re a well-coached ball club. They’ve got a great coach. They’re young, but they’re very well-coached and very fundamentally-sound. I look for them and us to kind of be the ones that will kind of fight it out to secure one of those home playoff spots,” Perry said.
After hosting the first state playoff game in program history in 2012, Perry looks to continue that upward trend, noting that his current team has the potential to make some noise if it keeps working toward playing its best ball at the right time of the year.
“As the year goes on, I think we may peak at the right time. We may peak right about playoff time. If we can scratch our way in, I think we may be able to put it together and make it fairly deep,” Perry said.