It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out some of the best high school baseball talent in the state is found right here in the Augusta area.
Baseball fans don't have to drive 2 1/2 hours west on I-20 to Atlanta to see good baseball. All you need to do is attend a local high school game and you will almost certainly see a future college player or maybe even a future professional player.
Last year, seven teams from The Augusta Chronicle's coverage area advanced to the state playoffs. Greenbrier won the Class AAA state title, Evans was a Class AAAA state quarterfinalist and Augusta Christian was a state runnerup in private school play. Not bad for a season that many labeled as mediocre.
This season, the number of teams is expected to increase in state tournament play and the area is once again stocked with some of finest baseball talent in the state.
While Greenbrier may find it tough duplicating the school's two state titles in its first two seasons of existence, the Wolfpack still returns one of the area's most exciting pitchers in Hampton Rowland, and two of the area's future stars in sophomore Bradley Key and junior Jon Johnson.
Cross-town rival Evans is again loaded and boasts arguably the best player in the area in shortstop B.J. Long.
Another Columbia County School, Harlem, has an abundance of talent and two very good pitchers in Chuck Harrington and Charles Blakey. They also boast two returning starters, Matt May and Randy Lewis, who both batted over .400 last year.
Not to be outdone, Richmond Academy has one of the area's top pitchers in Davis Beman, while Westside boasts perhaps one of the area's most versatile players in senior Terry Jackson.
Around the area, a move down from Class AA to Class A has Washington-Wilkes fans thinking their team might be good enough to make a run at the state title. And why not? The Tigers may have the area's strongest pitching rotation of left-hander Matt Bailey and right-handers Jason Silvey and Blake Winfrey. In addition, leading hitter Chris Mays also returns.
Chuck Sanders has Jenkins County's baseball program back on track and helped the Eagles into the region playoffs last season. Now, their expectations are higher this season and with the return of junior shortstop Will Newton, senior outfielder J.R. Gay and senior catcher Terry Williams, the Eagles could make some noise in Millen.
No question, the area is loaded with baseball talent.
Tim Morse covers high school sports for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3216.