Unprecedented. That seems to be the only word that is fitting in regard to the 2020 Georgia Highlands Chargers. It fits in how they began, how they performed, and unfortunately, how they finished.
The Chargers were off to a torrid 21-4 start, easily the best in program history and good enough for the Chargers to scratch their way back into the NJCAA poll for the third time in 4 years. At the time play was halted for the season, the Chargers 21 win were the second most in the NJCAA. GHC was leading the country in shutouts (8) walks allowed per 9 innings (2.25), and stolen bases (120) while allowing the fewest stolen bases against (4 in 25 games). The Chargers sported the 2nd best fielding percentage (.975), 3rd best ERA (2.40), and 3rd most sacrific flys (15) in the nation. If that isn't enough, the Chargers finished in the top 10 in the NJCAA in 4 more categories (3B, RBI, XBH, OB%), the top 15 in 8 (runs, 2B, TB, XBH, BB, BAVG, SLUG, OPS, ERA), and the top 25 in 3 (HR, H, Runs against).
Team success is always driven by inidividual performance, and though there may not be any post season accolades to hand out, there were several players who put up All-Conference and All-American type numbers.
Trace Twardoski, Max Kops, Joe Sutton, and Palmer Sapp were each belting out a batting average of over .400 and playing every day. David Smith and Joe Sutton were leading the conference in RBIs. David Smith had 7 homers and Gavin Harmon had blasted 5. Eight Chargers had double digit stolen bases, and Twardoski's 10 doubles was the best in the league.
Mickey Maguire, David Smith, Gavin Harmon, Jet Kern, and Alex Skepton each hit .300 or better, and the Chargers were on pace to score over 450 runs durning the regular season.
On top of that, the Chargers defense was spectacular as well. Mickey Maguire, David SMith, and Gavin Harmon were perfect in the field and did not commit a single error between them. The catchers were so fearsome and the pitchers did such a good job of holding runners that only 8 stolen bases were attempted against GHC in 25 games. The Chargers threw out 4 of them.
Johnny Dow was 6-0 with a 1.05 ERA and ZERO walks in 34 innings of work. Jacob Ryan was 3-0 and had yet to allow a SINGLE RUN in 21 innings. Ethan Underwood faced every ace from every team GHC played and was sitting on a 4-1 record with a 3.51 ERA. Those three combined for 89 innings in which they struck out 95 batters, gave up only 17 earned runs, and walked an astonishing 6 hitters. They were 13-1. Conner Perry and Chase Townsend combined for another 7 wins and an ERA under 3.
Jet Kern was second in the country in saves with 5 and did't allow a run in his seven appearances. Ryan Smithson and Griffin Brown toed the rubber 7 times between them and never allowed a run.
Statistical production aside, the character and makeup of the 2020 Chargers was also off the charts. Head Coach Dash O'Neill used the word "special" when he described his team. "This was a special group, the kind that only comes around once in a while. They loved each other and fought hard for one another. They were great in the classroom, and they were wonderful human beings, which is the most important thing. They will make great spouses and parents and be the kinds of people that employers will rave about. They learned what it meant to buy into something bigger than any one individual and that they could do great things when they leaned into each other."
As O'Neill said, this was a special team. Here's to the 2020 GHC Chargers Baseball Team.