One potential distraction has dropped away as Carson Gregory prepares to start the baseball season as Beaufort High School's ace.
The junior pitcher committed this past fall to play baseball at Winthrop, setting up a worry-free final stretch to his high school baseball years. Or almost worry-free.
The Eagles' right-hander broke a bone in his right hand during the team's opener last week against Stratford. He expects the setback to cost him a couple of weeks but that he'll be back in time for the start of the Region 8-AAAA schedule.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to start off," Gregory said. "I'm just glad it's only 10-14 days. It could have been a lot worse if it was a different side of my hand."
Beaufort High will hope Gregory returns to form, but also has depth in newcomer Bradley Brown, who will pitch in the No. 2 spot, and senior David Tilton, who is recovering from a strained muscle near his throwing shoulder and hopes to be back full strength in a week or so.
Pitching leads the Eagles into coach Scott Mullen's second season. Beaufort High replaces its middle infield after three consecutive seasons with Mitchell Stewart and Mark Jones mannning the middle.
Junior Jessie Sanborn at second and sophomore Brady Cormier at shortstop have filled the void. And through two games, their older teammates have had good things to say.
"They've both been coming out here every day ready to get better and working hard," Tilton said. "It seems to be helping out so far."
The Eagles graduated top hitter Weber Pike, but Tilton is one of the big bats returning to a Beaufort High lineup that includes Alex Silon, who batted .400 last year and drove in 18 runs, and Stephen Baggett, who batted .370, with two home runs.
Beaufort High will lean on its pitching when the bats are cold, as they were during the opening night loss to Stratford.
Gregory throws hard and Brown, who relieved Gregory after the injury and pitched five innings at West Ashley, has good movement on his pitches, Gregory said.
Gregory was in good form early, Tilton said.
"He's just pounding the zone, trusting his stuff," Tilton said. "It was sad to see him go down, because he was on. He was throwing hard and controlling all his pitches. And when he's controlling all his pitches, he's hard to beat."
Beaufort High will start with a stiff non-region stretch to start this week, hosting Hilton Head Island High School tonight, traveling to rival Battery Creek on Tuesday and hosting a rematch with West Ashley on Wednesday.
The Eagles won't be at full strength but hope to use the games as a barometer.
"This group right here, we've played together a lot," Tilton said. "We know what each other are capable of doing. It should be exciting."
2013 HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PREVIEW
Coach: Shawn Morrison, (first season)
Overall Record: 1st year as varsity head coach
2012 results: 8-15, 4-6 region
Assistant coaches: Dan McCaw, Ron Caton, Bart Morrale
Notable losses: Tommy Hill (.373, led team with 19 hits, 11 RBIs, graduated); Dustin Spurlock (.347, 17 hits, 5 RBIs, led team with 10 SBs, graduated); Shane Dixon (.333, 15 hits, 7 RBIs, 3.13 ERA, graduated)
Top returning players: P/SS Thomas Smith, Sr. (.250, 10 RBIs); C Clyde Parker, So.; P/U Aaron Brantley, Fr.; 3B/P Zack Mahan, Jr.; 1B Craig Capano, Jr.; CF/P Michael Jennings, Jr.
Top newcomer: 2B/3B Jason Padgett, Sr., transferred in last year; OF Anthony Moore, So.
Strengths: "We have a strong work ethic and good team chemistry," Morrison said. "We're starting to develop a strong mental approach and starting to feel confident, that we can win every ball game." Weaknesses: Inexperience, lack of depth. "While improving, our mental approach to baseball is not yet instinctive," Morrison said.
Outlook: "If the kids keep working hard, I think we have a chance to make a decent run in the playoffs. I think that we're a team that not many have on their radar, but we might surprise some people and get further than a lot of people would think."
Coach: Scott Mullen (second season)
Overall Record: 18-9
2012 results: 18-9, 7-1 Region 8-AAAA
Assistant coaches: Keith Riley, Adam Mullen
Notable losses: Weber Pike (.540 avg., 1 HR, 20 RBIs), Mark Jones (.316 avg., 3 HRs, 29 RBIs), Mitchell Stewart (.413 avg., 20 SBs), Austin Willis Green (6-3, 2.88 ERA)
Top returning players: David Tilton (.341., 19 RBIs), Stephen Baggett (.370, 2 HRs, 13 RBIs), Carson Gregory( .362, 2 HRs, 16 RBIs, 5-2, 2.49 ERA, 60 Ks), Alex Silon (.400, 18 RBIs, 18 SBs)
Top newcomer: RHP Bradley Brown
Strengths: "We will rely heavily on our pitching this year. We feel like we have a very balanced pitching staff that can take us a long way this year."
Weaknesses: "Might not have the same fire power as last year in our lineup, but that remains to be seen. We might surprise some people this year."
Outlook: "I feel like we have a more balanced team than last year," Mullen said. "If we score runs and play fundamental defense, everything else will take care of itself."
Coach: Bryant Kitty (ninth season)
Coach's overall record (record at school): 141-112 (113-92)
2012 results: 11-11, 5-5 Region 7-AAA, lost in the second game of the Class 3-A Lower State playoffs to North Myrtle Beach
Coaching staff: Justin Robinson, Scott Lusby, Jonathan Frazier, Jeff Feaster, Keith Hamilton, Dwon Fields, Jason Cress, Anthony Boytim
Notable losses: 2B/OF Tucker Mosely, 3B Michael Grant, P Colin Grunder, OF Eric Boyles, OF Hayden Gillespie, P/1B Ben Anderson
Top returning players: Weston Gillespie, John Trerotola, Bradley Rindt, Kahlil Mitchell, Vinny Boni, Cooper Boni, Nick Williamsen, Michael Grunder, Jonathan Ingalls, Logan Phillips, Chance Murphy
Key newcomers: INF/P Brooks Robinson- (INF/P)
Outlook: "Making the move up in classifications is always a challenge," Kitty said. "I'm very familiar with this region from my days of coaching at Beaufort High. I know what to expect from each team. Pitching will be a key factor, as well as getting the younger players to mature quickly."
Hilton Head Christian
Coach: Danny Morgan (third season)
Overall record: 17-25
2012 results: 13-11, 2-6 region, lost second round of state playoffs
Assistant coaches: Parker Collins, Erik Sonburg, Chuck Workman, Kenny Anderson
Notable losses: SS/P Andrew Halley, SS/P
Top returning players: OF/P JD Reichel, OF Reese Dolyniuk, INF Alex Cooler, OF/1B/P Alec Ambrosic, OF/1B/P Caleb Workman, INF/P Luke Higgs
Strengths: Experience of the returning players.
Weaknesses: Depth of pitching and position players
Outlook: "We have a strong core of players who can compete with the best teams in SCISAA," Morgan said. "We have to be able to handle adversity better as a group and be able to rely on our teammates when situations happen that are beyond our control. As long as we can continue to improve daily as a team, I expect our talent to be able to compete better than we did a year ago."
Hilton Head Island
Coach: Chris Wells (14th season)
Overall record: 264-122
2012 results: 19-6 6-4 Region 7-AAA, lost in district final
Assistant coaches: Blair Carson, Matt Seelman, Ken Soucy, Eric Sikora, LJ Bush, Rich Keefner
Notable losses from 2012: SS Kevin Hickey, P Cameron Stoltz, CF Michael Haven, 3B/C Taylor Place
Top returning players: 1B/OF Storm Grisham, OF Adam Orischak, C Brandon Johnson, P/OF Andrew Dill, P Mat Clark, P Jake Kizer
Key newcomers: SS Aaron Facenda (missed last season due to injury), P Lincoln Fuller, P Ryan Cherry, 2B Dillon Heffner
Strengths: Pitching depth, outfield defense, catching, solid lineup
Outlook: "Should compete with James Island, Hanahan and Berkeley for top spot in region," Wells said.
Hilton Head Prep
Coach: Lew Kent (second season)
2012 results: 9-7-1
Assistant Coaches: Dan Sheehan, Ned Mullis
Notable losses: Dylan Powell, Patrick Briody
Top returning players: Marcus Hindal, Randy Young, John Sheehan, Greg Warren, Cole Gardocki, JT Marbut
Key newcomers: Jake Martin, Tyler Fox, Steven Frederico, Kevin Campbell
Strengths: Depth of position plalyers, infield defense
Weaknesses: Lack of speed in the outfield, pitching depth
Outlook: "The 2013 Dolphins are a much improved team," Kent said. "Key newcomers will help propel the Dolphins to a successful year and the Dolphins will contend for the region title."
Coach: Blake Raley (first season)
Overall record: 0-0
2012 results: N/A
Assistant coaches: Johnny Millens, Luke Bender
Notable losses: From Ridgeland -- SS/P Xavier Capers; From Hardeeville -- OF/P Charlie Morrison-Ford
Top returning players: 3B Tyler Jones, INF/P Ransom Dunham, INF/P Diquan Mitchell
Key newcomers: OF Frank Fields, 2B Morgan Russell, C Dennis Chaney, UTIL Amar Wilkins
Strengths: "Hopefully combining Ridgeland and Hardeeville, the depth and the number of quality players will translate to a better on the field product."
Weaknesses: Potential for nine freshmen and sophomores on the roster and combined with only six juniors and seniors, this is a young team.
Outlook: "We are in a very difficult region -- Bishop England preseason No. 1, Academic Magnet always has a top-notch program, Battery Creek has traditionally fielded quality teams and dropping down from Class 3-A, and Woodland has also been a traditionally strong team," Raley said. "We may out-manned on certain nights."
Thomas Heyward Academy
Coach: Nic Shuford (seventh season)
Overall record: 93-57
2012 results: 15-8, lost to Holly Hill in state semifinals
Coaching staff: Leon Etheridge, Joe Laycock, David Etheridge
Notable losses: Joe Laycock, Taylor Cowart, Will Richardson, Dylan Crosby - Graduation
Top returning players: P/CF Ryan Day (.515 avg., 21 RBIs, 11 SB), P/3B Zack Newton (.320 avg., 2.47 ERA), C Evan Duncan (.97 fielding percentage, threw out 17 of 28 attempted steals), JD Tuten (.344 avg., 10 SB), Forrest Richardson (.298 avg.), Bryan Lee Wade, Conner Driscoll, Seth Jones, Brennan Fleury
Outlook: "After losing two key defenders on the infield, there will be some questions especially losing four-year starter Joe Laycock at first base," Shuford said. "Have some solid pitching coming back in Day, Newton and Jones. Goal is to advance to the state championship."
Coach: Joshua Brister (first season)
Overall record: N/A
2012 results: 10-7, 6-4 Region 5-A, lost to Lamar in Class 1-A, District 7 final
Assistant coaches: Jonathan Stovall, Travis Wynn, Joshua Duplessis, Javonel Rhodes
Notable losses: P/OF Tyshawn Fields, OF Jamele Brown
Top returning players: P/OF Dee Delaney, P/1B Jay Delaney, C Timothy Campbell, INF Emmanuel Wright
Key newcomers: P/INF Ryan Green
Strengths: Experience and team speed
Weaknesses: Pitching depth
Outlook: "We are looking to be back in the hunt this season," Brister said. "We have scheduled tougher non-region teams and will play in Florida during spring break in order to better prepare us for the Class 1-A playoffs. Our team has five goals that we want to accomplish when it's all said and done, one of which is to position ourselves to receive a high seed in the playoffs. But in order to do that, we must compete to finish up near the top of Region 5-A."