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February 4, 2014

Stallions looking to gain diamond experience

TIFTON — The ABAC Stallions put their first win on the board Saturday afternoon for first year coach Robert Morgan.

Tied at 3 with Brunswick Community College in the bottom of the 10th inning, Christian Miller reached base on a walk, went to second on a passed ball, then scored the winning run on a Trevor Moncrief double.

Brunswick was their fourth game of the season. The first two had been close losses to St. Johns River State College at home, then a come from behind win from the same team earlier Saturday.

"It took us a little longer than we wanted," he said. That does not bother him. He considers it part of the process. "I wasn't disappointed over the weekend."

He said the pitching has looked good so far, but is waiting on the bats to awaken. That is beginning to happen, he said — "they're getting a heck of a lot better."

ABAC did not start its season until last Friday, as temperatures became milder. While they were able to get in a full slate of games, they are already looking at weather issues for later this week. Saturday, they had been scheduled to go against Wallace Community College of Dothan, Ala. Early Tuesday afternoon, Morgan received confirmation that it was being moved up to Thursday at 4 p.m. because of the heavy threat of rain.

Matt Shurley pitched the second game of the opening doubleheader against St. Johns River. Shurley is the one Tift County High alumnus on the roster, but that might be strange to local fans who do not remember him on recent Blue Devils squads.

That is because Shurley is 28 years old. He last pitched for the blue and white in 2004. Morgan said he was older than two of his assistant coaches.

His mound comeback began last fall with a phone call. He had been on Morgan's roster in Legion ball many years earlier and wanted to know if the coach wanted to toss around a baseball. When Shurley's speed registered 86-89 miles per hour, Morgan decided to check and see if he had any eligibility left. He has a year.

"He's really eating up the second chance," said Morgan.

Tiftarea Academy has also had a representative that has figured into the early action. Eric Lee, who graduated in 2013, pitched the final inning against Brunswick Community College.

Lee came into the game in the top of the 10th with the bases loaded and no outs. He coaxed two weak fly balls, then struck out a man to end the frame with no damage.

The coach said they had been working on Lee's throwing motion. "He threw straight over the top."  He believes that the tweaks are going to make Lee better than ever.

ABAC has a young roster, only a handful of sophomores. Morgan thinks youth won't be a problem. "I think (former) Coach (Jeff) Kilgore did a great job recruiting," he said.

On the other hand, injuries might.

He has lost a second baseman to a torn ACL and a catcher had a hip flexor injury that kept him out of the weekend games. When he tested it out earlier this week, it was determined that he would be out a couple of weeks longer.

"It's just being consistent," he said. "Speed, strength, experience … we tell players that we can teach speed and strength, but can't teach experience. Most of sophomores have experience." He conceded, with a laugh, that Shurley probably has a good bit of experience.

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20140726 John Gamble.JPG

John Gamble (right) is joined by John Reid at the Tiftarea YMCA Saturday.

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