Posted February 5, 2018 11:19 am

Augusta's Gayle, Bilardello thrive on opening weekend

Augusta University dropped three in a row to West Georgia to start the season, but a couple outfielders showed early that the Jaguars have talent worth keeping an eye on throughout the spring.

West Georgia 16, Augusta University 2
West Georgia 10, Augusta University 7
West Georgia 14, Augusta University 3

Augusta - Devin Bilardello: 6 for 9, 2 2B, 2 BB, 2 SB
Augusta - Bakari Gayle: 5 for 12, 3 2B, RBI, BB, SB
West Georgia – Cade Marlowe: 8 for 14, 3 2B, 8 RBI, 3 BB
West Georgia – Price Peters: 1 for 7, 2 RBI, 6 BB
West Georgia – Greyson McLeod: 6 IP, 6 H, R/ER, 2 BB, 8 K

Not much went right for Augusta on opening weekend, but Gayle and Bilardello were the highlights by showing the talent that made them notable names out of high school.

Gayle has the ideal athletic frame for an up-the-middle player, including a lean body, long limbs and some quick twitch ability. His swing is loose and fluid through 75 percent of it. He syncs the moving parts well and uses his athleticism to overcome the excess movement. There’s excellent lift and some explosiveness to the hands to produce above-average bat speed. There’s power in the barrel to all fields, especially over-the-fence pop and consistent gap power to the pull side. It would serve Gayle well to extend the stride and keep the foot in the air a touch longer to avoid cutting off the fluid movement. If he can extend that and maintain his synced parts, it’s the formula for an explosive and athletic bat. Gayle didn’t play in the field during the weekend.

Bilardello has a solid, athletic frame with present strength and speed to match. It’s a more solidly-built up-the-middle body than Gayle. His approach at the plate is also more suited for a leadoff type by hitting to contact with a level plane. He picks up spin very well and is able to adjust extremely well with a short stroke, allowing his bat to play to its potential as a consistent .300+ hitter at the level. He’ll pop the occasional double and triple to match. Bilardello matches his talent in the outfield as an above-average center fielder with range and a solid first step. The arm plays well at the position, too.

These two should get attention over the course of the season. They took a nice initial step in the opening weekend.

Peters, West Georgia’s catcher, showed a plus arm and popped 1.85, with the word that he’s hit sub-1.8 in the past. He throws darts on a line with decent accuracy. The pop times are impressive considering the distance his height forces him to travel to get out of the crouch. He’s tall for a catcher and doesn’t have quick actions, but they’re smooth and stay under control. At the plate, Peters has a contact approach despite his size, and his bat is a bit limited because of the short, rigid stroke. But he shows the ability to recognize spin.

McLeod, West Georgia’s first starter, was upper-80s with minimal movement for a below-average fastball, but the curve showed plus break and depth, darting at a three-quarters tilt sharp and late. If he can tick up his velo, he has the two-pitch mix to monitor.

USC Aiken 2, Lincoln Memorial 1
Lincoln Memorial 6, USC Aiken 3
USC Aiken 10, Lincoln Memorial 5

USC Aiken – Jose Bonilla: 3 for 13, 2 RBI
USC Aiken – Joey Smithers: 6 for 11, 2B, HR, 3 RBI
USC Aiken – Zach Rafuse: 5 IP, 2 H, BB, 8 K

South Aiken product Smithers had a big first weekend and earned a bump toward the top of the lineup. Lakeside product Daniel Wiggins was also solid by contributing scoreless innings in two of the three games. Bonilla picked up where he left off after a huge 2017 season by driving in two in the ninth to walk off a winner on opening day. The Pacer center fielder hits and hits a ton.

Other notables:
Georgia College has big expectations this season and started strong by beating Paine 21-0 and North Greenville 7-0. Outfielder Wesley Wommack had four hits and Logan Mattix had five, including a triple.

North Georgia took two of three from Florida Tech. Chase Sudduth had a couple home runs over a doubleheader sweep Saturday.

South Aiken product Andrew Krauss saw his first college action Saturday by starting at shortstop for Spartanburg Methodist. He went 0 for 1 with a walk.