In 2017, the Georgia Highlands Baseball Team claimed its first ever NJCAA Region XVII Championship, finishing 12th in the final NJCAA DI Men’s Baseball Poll. The Chargers won 40 games and set new program records in nearly every team and individual statistical category imaginable. Needless to say, expectations for the 2018 season couldn’t be higher despite a roster that returns only ten players from last year. This is primarily due to the fact that Dash O’Neill believes that he and his staff assembled a very strong recruiting class capable of propelling the Chargers to even greater success in the GCAA. “There is no doubt in my mind when I look around practice this fall that we have a tremendous amount of talent all over the field, and that is a testament to the job that Brock and Rob have done over the last 12 months to secure the kinds of players we need to compete for championships here at GHC.”
Whereas last fall Coach O’Neill and his staff were just trying to evaluate their roster and install a new system of play, this fall has been characterized by intense competition and plenty of scrimmages. “The challenge coming in here last year was to establish an entirely new way of doing things – a new culture for GHC baseball. I also had to figure out where our talent was and what holes we might need to fill, so our priorities were a little different. Since we recruited the group we’ve got now, we already know what they can do, so this fall is more about guys battling it out to win jobs and really competing with each other.”
To augment their work on the field, the Charger staff also employs a very intense and demanding workout regimen programmed by Clifton Bennett, who owns and operates Crossfit Adrenaline, a local Crossfit affiliate. During these workouts, which are crafted specifically for the Chargers, players combine an olympic and powerlifting routine focused on brute strength with an intense functional strength and conditioning routine that builds cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Many workouts leave players flat on their backs gasping for air and drenched in sweat. Despite the challenge, the players take a sick pleasure in being pushed to the brink. Cameron Hearn, a sophomore at GHC, smiled when asked about the workouts “Honestly, when we first started with the workouts, I didn’t really know if I was going to like it. I mean, it’s hard, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in sports. I think for me, it just makes you push yourself to your limits and makes you do things you never thought you could do. Then once you start seeing how much you gain – I mean, I’m stronger, my arm is stronger, and I’ve gotten faster – once you see that stuff, then you start to love it and love the way it hurts.” It isn’t just about individual gains though, when Hearn was asked what it did for the team, he was just as excited: “Well, it makes us work hard, for one. I think it brings guys together, you know? Some days, it’s so hard you don’t know if you’re gonna make it, so you have to dig deep and talk to each other, so that builds that team work.”
With all the hard work and competition happening in Charger camp this fall, its hard not to talk about GHC defending its Region XVII title, but that’s not exactly how O’Neill looks at it. When asked what the Chargers would have to do to defend their Region Crown, his answer was simple: “We’re not defending anything, so let’s be clear on that. Last season was awesome, and I am proud as can be of that team, but that has nothing to do with this year. We aren’t defending anything, we are going to attack this schedule and aggressively pursue another Region Championship and ultimately a trip to Grand Junction. I know there will be a lot of people looking to come after us, and I love that kind of challenge.”
GHC will play a handful of scrimmages this fall, beginning on September 29, when the Chargers travel to Augusta University to scrimmage the Jaguars. First pitch is at 2PM.