The Villa Rica High School baseball team has encountered more than its fair share of obstacles this season.
After facing delays and rescheduled games due to heavy rains to begin the season, head coach Neal Hannah says he feels like his team was picking up steam just before the season was put on hold due to COVID-19 precautions taken by the Georgia High School Association.
“It’s been a really strange year, with everything that’s been going on,” Hannah said. “As soon as we really got going and started playing well, we get shut down again and this time we aren’t sure if we will get to play out our season. It’s frustrating, to say the least.”
The Wildcats fell to 0-4 to start the season, but the team rebounded behind a four-game winning streak before dropping last week’s finale to fall to 4-5. Despite losing the last matchup against East Paulding, the Wildcats are still in good position to finish in a top-four spot in Region 7-AAAAA.
“It’s been tough to figure out who we are and what our identity is,” Hannah said. “I think we have an opportunity to be pretty good, but we haven’t had a shot to show it yet. We had a lot of games that had to be moved or canceled at the first of the year, but we played better once we really got going.”
Hannah praised the efforts of his pitchers through the last few weeks. Jacob Turner threw a one-hit shutout against Heard County and Johnny Bravy, a LaGrange College signee, pitched another scoreless game against Cass in the Wildcats’ region opener. Villa Rica shut out the Colonels in both games earlier this month.
“We got off to a 2-0 region start, and then we played East Paulding, who is a really good team,” Hannah said. “Logan Ervine is a freshman and he threw a really good game for us against them. We were able to knock off a really good baseball team then. We played them again and they beat us 6-1.”
Hannah said that his team is hoping to finish out the season on a strong note should games resume this year.
“I like where we are,” Hannah said. “There are very few questions left to be answered. We are solid with who we went out there with as far as our batting order.”
Villa Rica has shown consistent offensive production throughout the season and is currently led by Will Siewert and Mekhi Boykin, who are both hitting over .400 on the season. Hannah also mentioned JaQuan Nieves and Brandon Patanao as other hitters who have been able to jumpstart the Wildcat offensive efforts.
“Overall, we’re hitting really well as a team,” Hannah said. “We’re giving ourselves a chance to win games by swinging the bat well and I’m really pleased with our guys’ efforts on that.”
Hannah said he is confident that his team can carve a path to the playoffs that would offer them a desirable home-field position should the season continue.
“I feel like we can play well enough to get one of those home slots in the playoffs,” Hannah said. “Our older kids have worked hard, and the younger kids have bought into what we’re trying to do. Right now, it’s just really tough trying to stomach watching our season be put on hold with no guarantee that we’ll get to play another game.”
The Wildcat coach noted that he hopes his team members learn from this experience and savor every future opportunity to play the game.
“We want our kids to understand that they need to make the most of every moment they play because sometimes things happen that might prevent you from getting back out there,” Hannah said. “We are hoping we get to continue the season this year. At this point, it’s just a waiting game.”