When the Augusta GreenJackets play host to the Greenville Bombers for four games beginning at 7:15 tonight at Lake Olmstead Stadium, there will be a few familiar faces in the third-base dugout and bullpen.
Seven Bombers are back in the South Atlantic League after spending at least part of last season with the GreenJackets, and manager Chad Epperson returns for his second season with the Boston Red Sox's low-A affiliate.
The GreenJackets and the Red Sox ended their six-year affiliation in September when the GreenJackets signed a player development deal with the San Francisco Giants. The Red Sox later signed a deal with the Bombers, who were then the Capital City Bombers based out of Columbia. The Bombers then moved to Greenville, S.C.
Pitchers Adam Blackley, Gary Galvez, Kyle Jackson and Jesus Delgado, catcher Salvador Paniagua, infielder Brett LeVier and outfielder Ian Cronkhite all donned GreenJackets uniform at some point last year, while Galvez and Jackson spent the entire season here.
Galvez, who went 7-10 with a 5.14 ERA last season, is doing the best of the pitchers with a 4-0 record and 2.87 ERA in mostly relief appearances. Cronkhite batted .216 in 82 games with Augusta after being demoted from high-A Sarasota and is leading the former GreenJackets hitters with a .275 average this season.
Augusta is 3-1 against Greenville.
DOUBLE TAKE: The GreenJackets had hit 12 home runs in 38 games going into their most recent road trip. They doubled that total in their past five games.
First baseman/designated hitter Brad Vericker started the power surge Friday in Rome, Ga., and went deep again Saturday in Greensboro, N.C.
His teammates took over Sunday. Shortstop Marcus Sanders, third baseman Simon Klink and outfielders Mike Wagner and Jon Armitage - who homered from both sides of the plate - all took the Grasshoppers pitching staff deep in a 13-3 win.
Sanders, catcher Nick Conte and middle infielder Aaron Hornostaj homered in Monday's win, while Vericker and outfielder/designated hitter Carlos Sosa capped the display of power in Tuesday's loss.
Sosa has the only Augusta homer at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Sanders, a 6-foot, 160-pound 19-year-old, leads the team with five home runs. He had three homers in 55 games last year in rookie league. Conte's home run was the first of his career.
First baseman/designated hitter Jason Columbus, who hit 14 homers in the South Atlantic League last year, is one of three GreenJackets without a homer yet this season.
THE RACE IS ON: With 24 games left in the first half of the South Atlantic League season, the Southern Division race is shaping up to be a good one.
The Charleston RiverDogs (29-17) lead the division, but the GreenJackets (27-19) are two games back and the Rome Braves (26-20) are three behind the RiverDogs.
The Asheville Tourists (24-21), Kannapolis Intimidators (23-23), Savannah Sand Gnats (22-23) and Greenville (21-24) are all within eight games of first place.
The GreenJackets play 16 of their next 24 games at home, where they are 14-5 - compared to 13-14 on the road.
Augusta has not lost a home series and has lost only two of 12 series overall.
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.