Story by Stephen Wise and Morgan Wilkinson, Photo by Goflashwin
For coach Casey Waites and the baseball program, there is no offseason. After the conclusion of the spring season, work must be put in year round in order to maintain excellence, which is the ultimate goal for every player. That drive is accelerated when former players like TJ Shook and Jordan Beatson go on to play college baseball, which inspires current players to reach that level.
“It gives us more of a push to try and get there,” sophomore Jared Newell said, “seeing Ty Olenchuk commit to Clemson pushes us even harder to know that people at our program can reach that high.”
By sending players to play college baseball, it creates a culture and a legacy that challenges players to rise up and meet it head-on. That’s where the year-round work comes into play.
“The legacy gives you the inspiration to try and achieve what they’ve done because it gave you the realization to try since other people have done it,” sophomore Austin Muse said, “it makes me keep striving to be great and makes me want to keep on pushing myself to the limit.”
According to Renita Hacklen, whose son, Ward Hacklen, went on to play baseball at Spartanburg Methodist College, a lot that goes into reaching the college ranks.
“Academics. You have to be a student first, a good student-athlete but put your academics first and the rest will follow,” Hacklen said, “Stay humble and it will come, that would be my advice.”
Having players with the talent to play college baseball helps elevate the level of the team, junior Bryan Helms said. That’s what he expects will help carry the team this upcoming season.
“We have a lot of different returners coming back like Ty, who’s going to play at Clemson, and Noah Jackson, who is going to play at the Citadel,” Bryan said, “Having sophomores and juniors that got a lot of varsity playoff experience is going to make us a lot better and give us good experience for when we get in those big games and need to pull it out.”
Coach Waites gives players the opportunity to work out as a unit during the fall, which gives them a chance to gel and get better as a team.
“All of our guys had an opportunity to come out the fall and have fall practice,” Coach Waites said, “we’ve focused on the team and team goals.”
These fall practices are part of a series of activities and warm-ups that players use to improve their skill set and hopefully give them the skill needed to catch the eyes of scouts.
“Just working harder, hitting more, fall practices, going to the cages during the offseason, working on mechanics to perfect small things to make us better,” Jared said.
After making it to the Lower State championship last season, expectations are high for the program to build on that, all while preparing the players for the opportunity to play baseball collegiately.
“I have high expectations for them,” said Coach Waites, “we’re coming off a season where we lost in the lower state semi-finals and so the expectation is always high.”