Brian Vance planned this season out meticulously in order to have his Bowdon High School baseball team ready to face the gauntlet of Region 6-A opponents.
The second-year Red Devil head coach scheduled games early in the season against teams that some might consider to be out of the league of a small, Class A program.
“We try to stack up our non-region schedule early in the season with difficult opponents so we can get a good look at some stiff competition before our region games come up,” Vance said. “It’s really tough playing schools that are AAA and AAAA, but I think it’s definitely paid off for us in getting us ready for these region games.”
The Red Devils made it through the first portion of their season with an 8-7 overall record, including a 4-1 mark in Region 6-A. Vance is pleased with the momentum his players have developed going into this week, despite the fact that high school baseball is currently on hold in Georgia due to COVID-19 precautions taken by school districts across the state.
“Early in the season, we went back and forth a little bit, and kind of forgot who we were there to begin. But I think we have started to get back to playing ball like we want to and really get things going,” Vance said. “We talked at the start of this season about taking on a more aggressive identity and I think we are starting to get to that point, especially over the last few games we played.”
Bowdon won five of its last seven games since the beginning of the month and had hoped to continue that positive momentum going into the next part of its season that would pit the Red and Black against their fellow Region 6-A opponents.
“Starting our region games off with a 4-1 record is really exciting, and I feel like we were getting ready to play really well and make a run at being at the top of our region,” Vance said.
The Red Devil head man noted that careful planning went into developing the schedule well ahead of time.
“I think having those tough games to start the season really helped prepare us. We try to pick quality programs to play against that will help get us ready, and that will also help us in the (Class A) Power Rankings,” Vance said. “I think we found a really good mix of teams to play against this year. We try to challenge our guys and encourage them to rise to the occasion and play to a higher standard.”
Some of the Red Devils’ pitchers have posted good numbers on the year despite the tough lineup that Bowdon has faced up to this point. Junior Carter Powell has been a workhorse for his team on the mound, holding a 2-2 record with a 1.70 ERA. Braden Bowen has also done well, sporting a 1-1 record against some stiff competition early in the season.
“Braden has a little bit higher ERA than Carter, but he’s gone up against some really tough teams,” Vance said. “We’ve put him up against some really good teams and I’m confident that he’ll continue to be a presence on the mound for us.”
Ben Fortson leads the Bowdon batters with a .476 average, totaling 20 stolen bases and 19 runs.
“Ben started this year in our leadoff spot and then we moved him to our No. 3 position and he’s done very well,” Vance said. “He’s really morphed into our top hitter when we’ve needed him to be. He’s an exceptional athlete and we can count on him to drive in runs for us.”
Vance also pointed to Powell as another standout batter who is currently hitting .318 in the Red Devils’ cleanup spot. Powell has one home run and 15 RBI on the year.
“Carter is really knocking them in for us, and Andrew Messer has really become our leadoff hitter,” Vance said. “He’s batting .302 right now and has 15 stolen bases with 12 runs. He’s really doing a great job producing at the top of the order.”
Like most other coaches throughout the state, Vance is forced to wait and hope that high school sports will resume once the fears of COVID-19 dangers have passed or reached a point that officials believe it can be contained.
“I’m frustrated, personally. This year we’ve gone through rainouts and rescheduling games and now all of a sudden, it’s just nothing and we can’t do anything,” Vance said. “It’s really been an adjustment for our guys — and for me. It’s like a bizarre drought with nothing to do. I hate it for our seniors and for our whole team, really.”
Vance said he is thankful to be among coaches in the west Georgia area who have shown exceptional levels of cooperation and support for one another during these tough times.
“I love coaching with all these coaches in the west Georgia area,” Vance siad. “There are some really great coaches who are very close to one another and I’m grateful for their support. I hope we can all get back on the field really soon.”