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February 13, 2014

Blue Devils lead off season with scrimmage

TIFTON —  For possibly the first time, Kyle Kirk is truly looking forward to an Atlanta road trip.

Of course the coach of the Tift County Blue Devils baseball team was quite honored to go to the state playoffs last year, where they made it all the way to the quarterfinals. But as big as it was for the team, Kirk's deep playoff run was one of week-to-week uncertainties and featured three-game series at McEachern, at Newnan and at Walton. There was even a rainout and postponement.

This time will be a bit different. He said the Devils are going to the big stadium, Turner Field, April 19, when they will be playing the Crisp County Cougars.

The two were originally scheduled to go against each other Tuesday, but Kirk said both teams were approached with "an opportunity we couldn't turn down." Even though he will only occupy the dugout, he said he is excited.

In exchange, he said, the school will be selling tickets for a future Braves game, possibly one in the short June series against the Seattle Mariners.

Between now and then, the Blue Devils have a scrimmage game and much of the season occupying their minds.

The scrimmage is tonight at Perry. Perry had missed a day of school with the winter storm, but as of last check, Kirk said the game was still happening. They begin the regular season Monday at 6 p.m. against the Ware County Gators.

There are a few games scheduled at home against Elbert, Miller and Lee counties and Veterans as well as games at Jefferson and Winder-Barrow before they start playing region opponents.

Nearly all of his players return from last year's squad. That includes four scholarship signees: Alex Abbott (Florida), Blake Suggs (Young Harris), Zack Bullard (Polk State) and Deviner McCray (Gulf Coast).

"Really, the whole starting nine," he said. He did have one big loss from last year, shortstop Bobby Hughes, but said he had a couple of guys ready to fill in. He said he was also expecting big years out of Jonah Reyes and Joseph Reinhardt.

Pitching will be another strong point. "We have matchup guys, power guys," he started, before proceeding through nearly every situation possible.

In addition to his numerous vets in the lineup, he said there were several young guys ready, including Ryan Ross.

He said the whole team was "like a junior college."

"It's a great opportunity for us to capture region."

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