Coming off a Final Four appearance in 2023, the Social Circle baseball program has its eyes on another playoff run with an influx of youth.
Last year, the Redskins went 25-10 with a 5-4 record in Region 5A-Division I play. The season ended with back-to-back losses to Bleckley County in the Final Four.
Following the season, Social Circle’s roster took a hit with the loss of multiple starting seniors, such as Mason Moore, Brayden Mitchell and Logan Cross.
“We have a lot of young guys, we graduated 10 seniors last year,” said head coach Kevin Dawkins. “We have replaced those seniors with about nine freshmen, so we have gotten significantly younger.”
Most of the offseason for the Redskins has been spent helping the freshmen adjust to the high school level.
Since many of the players came from Social Circle Middle School, Dawkins feels like the freshmen already have a step-up on the adjustment.
“This offseason has really been about getting them into the program and getting them used to what we do as a high school staff,” Dawkins said. “They were in the middle school program, and they mirror what we do at the high school. But getting them in front of the high school staff and showing them what the expectations are and getting them ingrained into our program [has been the focus].”
With the amount of youth on the roster, Dawkins spoke about what group had impressed him the most during the offseason.
“Our senior group,” Dawkins said. “Luke Smith, Landon Davis, Landon Harpe and Nolan Mitchell. Those guys have really stepped up. Playing behind the 10 seniors we had last year, they really hadn't had to lead. Having the conversations early on in the school year with them, they have come in and stepped into that leadership role and have become an extension of me.”
Out of the senior group, Smith will seem to serve as the team’s ace going into the season, and Dawkins expects a big year from the senior.
“I think based on the success he [Smith] had last year and letting that confidence grow, he is even more confident in his stuff now,” Dawkins said. “Now he can just settle down and settle in and play. He has proved everything that he needs to prove.”
Outside of Smith, Dawkins already has a good idea of how his rotation will look going into the season.
Dawkins foresees Mitchell and junior Gehrig Knapp as two guys who will pitch important innings in 2024.
Another name that Dawkins mentioned is junior Caden Richardson, who closed out the Redskins Elite Eight against the Academy for Classical Education to send Social Circle to the Final Four in 2022 as a freshman.
Going into the new season, Dawkins views the team's strength as something much more than just what people can see on the diamond.
“The biggest strength for us is our togetherness,” Dawkins said. “It is not necessarily offense, defense or pitching. They have bought into what the program is about. They have bought into expectation, the tradition of winning. They are not used to losing a whole lot, so that will serve them well moving forward. They know what the expectations are and they know how to win.”
The Redskins opened the 2024 season at home against BASA on Monday, Feb. 12.