TIFTON — Batter up, let’s go. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has taken the baseball field.
Brandon Reeder’s Stallions hit the field Thursday against St. Johns River (Fla.), a day earlier than originally scheduled. Rain is forecast today and Reeder reached an agreement with St. Johns River Wednesday to play a bit earlier.
ABAC goes to Florida Sunday to face St. Johns River in a doubleheader. The next home game will be Feb. 7 against Florida State College at Jacksonville. A doubleheader against Wallace Community College of Dothan, Ala. will follow Feb. 8.
Reeder said his team had gotten “progressively better” since spring practice opened earlier this month. The Stallions are looking to get back on top of the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association. They won the league title two years ago, but an injury-plagued 2019 saw them fall to the bottom of the standings.
The most familiar name on the roster for area fans is that of Dawson Patterson, a Tiftarea Academy alumnus. Patterson signed to pitch at Tallahassee Community College (Fla.) in 2018, but is back home. Unfortunately, he won’t be active at the start of the season because of injury.
Reeder said Patterson was currently about 80-85% ready and hoping to be at 100% in February. News is better on another player. Alex VanDerStok is back after missing all of last season. VanDerStok’s freshman stat line included a .348 average, nine home runs and 50 runs batted in.
ABAC carries a full roster. Position players slightly outnumber pitchers on the list. If Reeder has an overabundance at any position, that’s catcher. Three players are listed as catchers on the roster and two more can fill in behind the plate if needed, he said. Sophomores Caleb Lanoux and Dustin Doscher are the experienced backstops.
Sophomores are a minority on the team, but they are a “good core,” according to Reeder. “All of our sophomores have been solid,” he said. Besides VanDerStok, the Stallions are looking for big years from players such as Ben Tuten, Austin Walls and Sam Bennett.
Bennett and Walls tied for second in RBIs in 2019 (24) and Tuten was right behind at 23. Walls, he said, has looked solid early on.
VanDerStok hit leadoff Thursday, but Reeder has also suggested that Garrett Bradley may do so as well, which may seem surprising considering he’s one of the many catching options. Reeder has also liked what he has seen from infielder Malik Germany.
One big plus for the Stallions is camaraderie. “We have a lot of good chemistry,” said Reeder. He may have already attended the team’s heart.
Kentavious Veal came down from WIlkinson County for one of ABAC’s open workouts last summer. There, he did nothing less than impress the ABAC staff. “He was all over the place,” said Reeder.
While small in stature — a listed 5’7” and 150 pounds — Veal has immediately become a favorite among the Stallions. “The team loves him,” Reeder said. “He’s pushing everybody.”
Toeing the rubber includes players such as Klay Allen, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery and throws in the upper 80s-low 90s. Pace Mercer and R.J. Delaney hail from Thomas County Central and are in the pitching mix. Brett Potts started Thursday against St. Johns River.
Then, there is Austin Craven, a Colquitt County alum who has slightly different experience.
Craven graduated from Colquitt in 2016, but did not pitch collegiately. Reeder received a tip last year about “this guy playing softball.” It was Craven.
Among the relievers are Patterson, Jayden Chance and Lowndes native Andrew Clark. Clark, said Reeder, “has really electric stuff.”