February 27, 2009
After recording an impressive victory in his first game as the baseball coach at Heritage Academy, Steve Hancock will go for another in his home debut.
Hancock will coach the Patriots at home for the first time at 1 p.m. Saturday against Winston Academy. The Patriots opened their season Tuesday with an 18-0 victory at Central Academy in Macon.
Austin Braddock homered twice, and Cole Vaughan and Arrington Rhett combined on a no-hitter.
The Patriots will look to make it 2-0 to start the season.
"The kids have really worked hard," Hancock said. "I''ve been real pleased. We''ve got a nice mix of kids from nine through 12, but we''ve got a great senior class. I was real pleased that for the most part (against Central) we were able to go out and do the things we worked on."
After Vaughan and Rhett held Central Academy hitless, Jesse Painter is scheduled to get the start on the mound against Winston Academy.
"Winston''s got a good club," Hancock said. "I got a chance to scout them last week. We''ve got to take it up a huge notch to be able to beat them. They''ve got good athletes all over the field. They''ve got good pitching. They swing the bats particularly well in the three through five holes.
"The home opener, more than anything else, will give us an indication of how far we''ve come and how far we have to go. This team is probably 1,000 percent better than it was at the end of the summer. Right before spring break we''ve got a game with Magnolia Heights and I anticipate us being 10 times better then than we are right now, and I anticipate us being 10 times better than that by the end of the season. This is a team I believe will continue to get better."
Hancock likes what he has inherited at Heritage Academy.
"Everybody tends to talk about the New Hope kids who have come over, and they are doing a good job, but I have some really strong players," Hancock said. "We''re trying to funnel them in a positive direction."
This is Hancock''s first coaching job in baseball after being away from the sport for four years. He last coached baseball as an assistant at New Hope High School in 2004.
For the past four years, Hancock coached the golf and cross country teams at New Hope.
Hancock was an assistant coach at New Hope from 2002-04. In that time he helped the Trojans win the Class 4A state championship in 2003.
Former New Hope players Bruce Branch and Tyler Hunter will assist Hancock this season. Branch coaches the outfielders and teaches baserunning and hitting, while Hunter is the pitching coach.
Prior to New Hope, Hancock was a pitching coach at Grenada from 1995-96, the head coach at Calhoun City in 1997 and Wayne County in 1998, and an assistant coach at Columbus from 1999-2001.
"I just missed it," Hancock said of being away from high school baseball. "I had some opportunities in get back into the game, but I wanted it to be in a good situation."
Prior to coaching in high school, Hancock coached in college for nine years. After playing at Millsaps College in Jackson from 1980-84, he had two stints at his alma mater (1986-88 and 1991-94). He also coached at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (1989-90).
Hancock is ready to put what he has learned from a host of good coaches to use at Heritage Academy.
"I enjoy the teaching aspect of the game," Hancock said. "We spend a lot of time in our practices teaching. It''s not just repetition, repetition. It''s a lot of teaching. What the guys are going through here is a crash course in baseball."
Hancock wants the Patriots to absorb as much as possible and improve to have the best season possible.
After hosting Winston Academy, Heritage Academy will play at Winston Academy in a rematch Monday. They will return home Thursday to play host to Central Academy.