The Georgia Highlands College baseball team has gone from 20 wins in its first season to 24 in its second to 28 in its third season, showing steady improvement each year.
The Chargers’ third season ended Friday with a loss to East Georgia State in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, falling three wins short of making a super regional appearance.
“As far as the season, I’m disappointed,” GHC skipper Mike Marra said. “I thought, at the start of the season, we had some pretty good sophomores and leadership, and they were committed to trying to win a championship. We never clicked during the year. We just struggled, played well at times. We were 28-31. We were just an average team.”
Georgia Highlands got off to a strong start to the GCAA tournament, defeating Gordon State by a score of 7-4. The Chargers then lost to the top seed, Darton State, in the second round, 6-1.
“We played a great game against Gordon to start the tournament, as good as we’ve played all year. We had good hitting, great starting pitching. We had to hold down a pretty good lineup to win that game, 7-4,” Marra said. “And then, the next day against Darton, it was good game. We just didn’t do enough offensively to get things going, but Sam [Sowerbrower] pitched a good game.”
The Chargers then played East Georgia State in an elimination game over the course of two days due to the lights going out at Darton. Georgia Highlands lost that game by a score of 7-3.
“A couple of defensive mistakes hurt us. We gave up some runs early, and then it was a suspended game because the lights went out, which I thought was to our advantage because [East Georgia starting pitcher Payton Phillips] was dominating us,” Marra said of Friday’s loss to East Georgia State. “I figured he wasn’t coming back the next day. So we got him out of the game. We had the bases loaded the next morning in the bottom of the eighth, and we only got one run across on an error. So we had a great opportunity to really cut into that lead. We struck out twice, popped up.”
The Chargers showed improvement this year and were second in the GCAA with 39 home runs. They also split a series with conference champ Darton and were the only team to beat Darton twice.
“This is the third year, and it’s the most wins by a team in our program. So we’ve gotten better each year,” Marra said. “Six kids have already committed to Division I or II programs, and we’re going to add probably Brandon Etheridge and Mitch Berger. So we’ll probably have eight guys moving on to scholarship situations. That’s good and that’s a lot for one club. So we’re happy about that and we’re happy about the direction we’re going. Just from a season standpoint, it’s a little disappointing because I thought we had a real chance to compete with Darton.
“I just thought, from a talent standpoint, we had a ton of sophomores with some experience, a bunch of transfers, which we don’t normally have. I thought it would help the winning side. It’s disappointing because I think we underachieved with the talent we had. Part of that, too, is you can’t get inside these kids and see what motivates them, their desire to actually win. I think we fell short of that with some of these guys.
“Just a lot of ups and downs, not a lot consistency form start pitching, relief pitching, hitting and certainly defense. We just couldn’t put it all together for a consistent time to really make a dent.”
Moving forward, Marra believes the program will continue to improve in the years ahead and can make another run at a conference championship next season.
“I love our freshmen. A lot of our freshmen played a lot of time for us this year, which bodes well for next year,” he said. “I think we’re going to put in some good pieces here, signing guys.”