North Augusta baseball has strong varsity team
Varsity-level experience is a strong point in this year's North Augusta High School baseball program, in the assessment of Victor Radcliff, the Yellow Jackets' head coach.Radcliff's squad is gearing up to play host to White Knoll Friday at 7 p.m., in the Jackets' first home game of the season."I feel good about this team. I feel good about the chemistry. The kids, I think they all like each other and get along well, and they push one another, and ... getting a chance to play against some other opponents was good this past weekend. We saw some good signs, and then there were some periods when you could see a little bit of youthfulness in it."The Jackets went 3-1 last week, taking part in a tournament spread between Gilbert and Pelion high school, and starting with a 5-4 Thursday win over Chesnee. Friday's game was a 7-5 win over West Ashley, and Saturday brought a 6-5 win against Dorman. Sunday's game was an 11-4 loss to Spring Valley.Looking at Region 5-AAAA, Radcliff named Lexington as "pretty strong" in terms of returning talent, with South Aiken not far behind."I think Lexington, probably, may ... have an edge, on paper, but in this region, you've got to play every day. Like I tell our kids, you don't win ball games just because you've got certain things on paper."He cited the example of North Augusta's state-championship squad, from 1997, and the runner-up season, in 2007. Neither team was ranked, he said.The Jackets' JoJo Higgenbottom, a senior serving at first base, has two years of varsity experience. Among others with plenty of varsity background are senior Russell Scaggs, at third, and senior Jake Nelson, at second and on the mound."This will be Bryson Conner's second year. He started shortstop as a sophomore last year, and I can see the maturity and confidence level in him," Radcliff said.The senior corps also includes Zach Jarvis (center field and pitching) and Zach Wilson (catching and second base).Among the new Jackets is third-baseman Cody Turner, a senior who transferred from Greenbrier and served the Jackets in the fall for several games at quarterback."There's some pretty tough hitting there in the middle of our line-up," Radcliff said. "It's a coach's dream when you have kids that get along and are willing to work and be 'coachable,' and I think that's one of the things that I'm excited about."Some corrections on fundamentals remain to be made, he said. "I think that we give ourselves a good opportunity when we show up and play."