Mary Persons baseball is officially in full swing after practice began on Jan. 18. The team played its first game against Rutland at home on Monday, Feb. 15, which the team dominated 12-0. Head coach Clae Mathis says despite losing nine seniors this past year, he refuses to call this a rebuilding year.
Mary Persons had what Mathis called “the greatest baseball team in school history” last year. Unfortunately thanks to COVID, that dream team had its season ripped out from under them.
“It’s hard to say what would’ve been, but our teams the past two years were probably better than any teams Mary Persons has ever had. We won Region 2-AAAA in 2019 and only graduated three guys off that team. We were looking to do it again last year when COVID struck. For a time, there were discussions about continuing the season. In every conversation, Mary Persons was unanimously voted the #1 seed for the playoffs.”
“Everyone knew how good we were last year. We were prepared to make a deep run in the playoffs. Not all of the seniors we lost played, but all nine of those guys contributed in some way. There’s definitely a lot we have to replace but I’m not ready to call anything a rebuilding year. If you say that before the season starts, you’re not showing confidence in your team. We have some big shoes to fill but we should have success this year.”
Mary Persons has three seniors this year: #17 Jaden Bankston, #4 Thomas Willingham and #15 Thorn Anderson. Bankston will be on the team’s pitching rotation this year and plays some third base. Willingham is also in the pitching rotation. He’s played outfield in past years but is switching to center this season. Lastly, Thorn is a leftfielder who’s played off and on the past three years.
Shortstop Eric Snow, the team’s star player, will be a junior this year. Snow has been starting since he was a freshman and already has some Division 1 college offers. Behind Snow in skill is probably #6 junior catcher Caden Swancey. Mathis says Swancey and Snow will probably carry the team a little this year.
Despite moving from AAAA to AAA this year, Mathis says the new region shouldn’t be very different in terms of competition. The team previously competed in a 16-team region that required a brutal schedule of three games a week. In this new region of eight, MP will only play twice a week which Mathis isn’t a fan of.
“Playing twice a week means you can have ties. When teams are tied, schools can make or miss the playoffs based on technicalities like run differentials. Although there’s less teams in this region, there’s still 5-6 solid teams at the top just like in AAAA.”
According to Mathis, those top teams include Pike County, Crisp County, Jackson and Upson-Lee. Pike County won the AAA state championship in 2019, the same year MP won region AAAA. Neither Pike nor MP have had a chance to defend their titles due to the 2020 season being a wash. Mathis says the team is preparing by doing what they’ve always done in practice, focusing on getting reps in and working hard.
“We have a great group of younger guys and a lot of talent on this team. If we keep working hard and stay focused, we should be successful this season.”
Next on the Dogs’ schedule, Mary Persons will play at Howard @ 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, and then host Morgan County at 5:55 p.m. the following Thursday, Feb. 18.