With the loss of only two senior regulars, Batesburg-Leesville has designs on improving on last season’s 19-8 showing. Though the graduation losses were not great in number, the impact of James Rawls’ departure to the University of South Carolina is huge. Rawls was the staff pitching ace (8-2, 1.67 ERA) and the team’s most feared hitter (.452, 31 RBI, 6 HR, 70 TB) in 2008.
“I think we should hit fairly well and I like our defense, but we just don't have much varsity experience on the mound,” said Panthers coach Tommy Williams.
Aisde from Rawls, B-L is also without the graduated Dillon Lorrick who was 5-0 with a 0.54 ERA in relief and spot-start duty last season. The new pitching leader is junior right-hander Scott Price, who was 5-2 with a 2.84 ERA. Juniors Cory Harmon, Jace Grandy and Andrew Gettys and sophomore K.J. Johnson are in the running for mound time, as are Cody Sanders and Brad Addy up from the junior varsity.
“We will not have a set rotation this season,” said Williams. “We will pitch guys based on match-ups we feel are to our strength.”
On the field, the Panthers are much more settled. Johnson and Demetrius Robinson are back in the outfield. Price returns in the infield at second base when not pitching along with shortstop D.J. Osby and third baseman Gettys. Junior Cooper Hunter is back at catcher. Harmon takes over full-time for Rawls at first base. The new left fielder is Grandy. Will Berry will handle the chores at second base or in left field, depending on the pitching rotation.
Johnson hit .400 in the cleanup spot last season with 28 runs scored and 24 RBIs. Robinson batted .392 with two home runs and 32 RBIs in the No. 5 hole. Price had a .33 batting average with 22 runs and 17 RBIs in the No. 2 spot. Gettys batted .329 with 16 runs and 11 RBIs.
The Panthers won the Region 3-2A pennant last spring, but that could change this season with the addition of defending state champion Gilbert to the fold. In the playoffs, B-L won the District III title to advance to the Upper State championship tournament, where it went 1-2 with losses to Gilbert and Pelion.