When half the eight teams in your region are ranked in the state’s Top 10 by the state’s largest newspaper, you’re probably in a tough region.
Bryan County High School is in a tough region.
It could be the state’s toughest.
Perennial power Benedictine, the school the Redskins play again Friday, is No. 1 in the most recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution Class AA poll.
Jeff Davis, perhaps the strongest team in the bunch, is No. 5.
Bacon County is No. 8.
Metter is No. 10.
To put that in perspective, that leaves only six Top 10 spots for the state’s other seven Class AA regions combined.
What’s more, the Region 2-AA teams that aren’t ranked aren’t slouches, either: Vidalia, Swainsboro, Toombs County and, of course, Bryan County.
"I think we play in one of the strongest regions in the state," said BCHS baseball coach Jason Roundtree, who last year guided the Redskins to a 20-7 ranking and a No. 9 spot in the Atlanta Journal Constitution prep rankings.
When asked for where he thinks his team will finish after the dust settles, he said it a couple of different ways but the message was the same.
"It really is totally one of those situations where we could end up anywhere from one to eight in our region."
So far, it’s been a seesaw ride for the Redskins, who after winning 10 straight in nonregion play have dropped five straight to Region 2-AA opponents. But before you count them down or out, players say that could turn around in an instant.
"We’ve kind of stumbled a little bit," said second baseman Gage Hagan, one of two juniors who’ve taken on leadership roles for Roundtree. "Once we pull it all together, we’ll bounce back."
Both Hagan, the team’s leadoff hitter and a superb infielder, and big Dahlson Brown, the team’s No. 1 starter and third baseman, have started for Bryan County since they were freshmen. Seniors Dylan Wiley, Blake Joyce, Ronnie Dickey and Nick Markles are also key performers, Roundtree said, but "at this point in time we’re still trying to get everything together and find out what kind of team we are."
It’s a team with offense, defense and pitching, but getting all three going at the same time can be tough. That’s often the case at the high school level.
"We like to put pressure on people, but we’ve got a lot of young kids out here and we still make some young mistakes," Roundtree said.
They’re working on improving, but the truth here is there’s little margin for error in Region 2-AA. And you need a short memory.
"We just kind of have to erase what’s happened so far," said Brown, who deposited a late-inning two-run homer over the left-field fence against Metter during a March 16 game that lasted 11 innings before the Tigers finally left with a 12-11 win. "We’ve worked to get better, we just need to take it one game at a time. Every game is important."
What’s more, the aim likely remains the same as it was early last week, when both Hagan and Brown said a trip to the state playoffs was the goal. It just looks tougher to accomplish now. With three teams tied for No. 1 in the region at 5-0 and two more fighting at 2-3 for the No. 4 seed, it won’t be easy for the Redskins to get back to the state playoffs. That doesn’t mean you give up.
"We need to develop a little more depth on the mound," Roundtree said. "We hit the ball better this year as a team than we did last year. We lost a couple good players but as a team we swing the bat a lot better. We’ve just got to get a little more depth behind the No. 1 and No. 2 guys on the mound."
If the Redskins do find a way into the playoffs, they will have done it the old fashioned way – by earning it. "There’s really no weak games left on our schedule the rest of this season," Roundtree said.
Like many high school coaches, Roundtree, who pulled off a feat many think was amazing when he coached Windsor Forest’s football team to back-to-back state playoff appearances several years ago, does more than run a team. He’s primarily a teacher, first, with a philosophy that comes from being a parent himself.
"I want my players to get better, and I want them to have as much fun as they possibly can have in a respectful way," he said. "Winning is a great thing, but if they can leave here as better baseball players and better young men then I’m happy. All I ask for them to do is give 100 percent and if they do that, we can let the chips fall where they may."
Up next: Benedictine at Bryan County, 5:30 p.m. Friday.