Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy starting shortstop Brandon Chisolm (left) talks with reserve infielder Luis DeJesus before the team’s practice on Tuesday.
With the return of six starters, and his top pitcher, Lovejoy coach Craig Chatman had reason to feel good about his team’s potential this season.
Add in the excitement of successful playoff runs from the school’s football and basketball teams, and pride has been at an all-time high at the school.
“During the offseason, we talked a lot about what the other sports teams at the school were doing,” Chatman said. “We wanted to make sure we were holding our own. We wanted to follow suit.”
Those would be lofty goals for the baseball program since the football team played in the Class AAAA finals, and the boys basketball team reached the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
The Wildcats had reason to feel confident this season.
Although the team was swept in the first round of the playoffs last season at Wayne County, the Wildcats battled what many considered one of the best teams in the state.
At one point last season, Wayne County was nationally ranked. Lovejoy lost 5-1, 8-2 on the road.
“Playing those two games really boosted our confidence,” Lovejoy senior pitcher Xavier Anthony said. “We knew if we stayed humble and focused that we could be good this season.”
So far, it has panned out for Lovejoy, which is 8-2 overall and 7-0 in Region 4-AAAA, heading into today’s game against Banneker.
“We have had a lot of the excitement carry over from last season,” senior shortstop Brandon Chisolm said. “What happened last season has given us a lot of momentum. We have a different mindset than last season. I think we are a lot more disciplined this season.”
The Wildcats started the season with losses to Newnan and Stockbridge, but have since won eight straight and sit atop the region standings.
But Lovejoy has no time to rest.
Chatman said the team’s pitching staff, which includes Andrew Nicholson, Vance Johnson and Anthony, has been one of the team’s strongest areas. All three have won two region games each.
Chisolm has also pitched some in relief, including getting the save against defending region champion Mundy’s Mill earlier this season.
Lovejoy’s region-leading eight runs a game can be attributed to a balanced lineup, according to Chatman.
“I think we need to play a little smarter on the basepaths,” he said. “We have run ourselves out of some innings. Baseball is all about pitching and defense. To average a lot of runs, you have got to be able to swing the bat some.”
And pride has been a key intangible.
This past offseason, Lovejoy refurbished its field.
Parents took interest in undertaking the project after assistant coach Brett Davis, a Lovejoy graduate, showed a picture of how the field used to look.
Funds were raised to do landscaping and a new pressbox will be installed in the future.
“It has taken a lot of time, effort and money to get these things done,” Chatman said. “We feel we are headed in the right direction.”