Craig Chatman has been a coach with the Lovejoy baseball team for 15 seasons. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON - Craig Chatman has been a coach with the Lovejoy baseball team for 15 seasons and the head coach for the last 12. He has seen a majority of the baseball teams the school has trotted out and has a special distinction for this year’s club.
“This year we probably got more depth than we ever had at the school,” Chatman said.
Depth in pitching and hitting, plus togetherness have Lovejoy aiming for a return trip to the state baseball tournament after failing to qualify a year ago. The 2012 and 2011 teams both made the tournament with the 2012 team entering as region champs.
“We’re more of a unit,” pitcher and outfielder Danyale Brimer said. “We’re more of a family. Last year we were a family, we just had no chemistry. This year we have chemistry,”
A key part of Lovejoy’s pitching depth is Brimer who was a member of that 2012 team. His personal goal on the mound this year is to pitch a no-hitter. Chatman doesn’t see jitters keeping him from that goal.
“He’s pitched in varsity games for three years now, so this is not a big deal to him,” Chatman said.
One pitcher that doesn’t have as much experience, but Chatman sees good things in his work on the mound is middle reliever Davin Jones. There’s also closer D’Quon Matthews who Chatman says probably throws the ball harder than anybody on the team.
“Most of our guys understand what their roles are. There’s some guys that are going to start, there ‘s guys that are going to come in to bridge the gap and then there’s the guy we going to finish the game with,” Chatman said..
The news is just as promising when Chatman talks about the depth and versatility of his team’s hitters. “We probably have the best mix and make up that we’ve had in a long time.”
While power hitters Morgan Robinson and Manny Martinez are two of the run producers, there is another area in which Chatman feels this team stands out in.
“We are much, much faster than we were last year. This year we can turn the game into a track meet,” he said.
Shortstop Jose Martinez and centerfielder and pitcher D’Ante Matthews set the table with their speed on the basepaths. Speaking of fast, Lovejoy got off to a 5-1 start to the season and in their only loss the defense let them down.
“We got to make routine plays. Errors will beat you. If we make the routine plays I think we can go far,” second baseman Quincy Roberts said.
The team looks to seniors Roberts, Brimer, Robinson, and utility man Luis Dejesus for leadership in a tough Region 2 AAAAAA. Luella, Alcovy, Newton, and Rockdale County are the returning playoff teams. Roberts and his teammates plan to do more than compete.
“You only get one senior year,” Roberts said. “My main goal is to win state. With this team I think we have the ability to do it.”