The Ashley Ridge baseball team is fairly young, but looking to build off the momentum it gained at the end of last season.
Ashley Ridge had to replace the bulk of its starters last season so it started several freshmen. The team struggled early in the year, but came on strong to make the playoffs.
Ashley Ridge won four of its last five region games and then won two playoff games before being eliminated.
“The guys bought in at the last of the year and we started playing well,” Swamp Fox coach BJ Bellush said. “That has kind of carried over into this year. We know the players better and they know what is expected of them. Our goal every year is to win the region, but we will have to play hard against some good teams to be in the mix.”
So far, the team has been able to keep that momentum. The Swamp Foxes beat Cane Bay and James Island in a preseason tournament last week and were up 5-1 over Goose Creek before that game was rained out.
On Monday, Ashley Ridge earned a 6-4 victory over Bishop England in the home opener for the regular season.
Senior Jason Miller pitched the first three innings before freshman Josh Church relieved him in the top of the fourth with the Swamp Foxes ahead 4-2. Hunter Grover and Church both had RBI doubles while Rusty Grayson and Miller also drove in runs. Church and Grayson both finished with a pair of RBIs.
“It was good to see a ninth grader come in and close the deal for us,” Bellush, who is now in his sixth season as the Swamp Fox coach, said. “Church pitched four good innings. We’ve been swinging the bats a little better than last year, getting those situational hits and things.”
On opening day, the team started four sophomores and a freshman. However, the bulk of the team is comprised of returning lettermen.
“We had a really good off season as far as the Winter workouts and the work in the weight room,” Bellush said. “They are taking to the coaching better. Last year was a bit of a learning process but now they have bought into what we are trying to do and they are playing pretty hard.”
The Swamp Foxes have good depth in the infield with six players who can play multiple positions. Grayson, Church and Wesley Aschenbrenner all have catching experience.
Aaron Miller is a returning starter at first base and Jason Miller started at third and shortstop last season.
Aschenbrenner opened the season at shortstop while Nick Rowell manned second and Church and Jason Miller split time at third. Returner Tres Pendergrass will also likely see action in the infield.
The Swamp Foxes have three returning lettermen in the outfield. Josh Litchfield anchors the group in center. Joining him are Chandler Conlee in left and Hunter Grover in right.
Others on this year’s varsity team are Yates Robinson, Donnie Slurm, Cooper Knowles, Ashton Hughes, Cole Ayers, Austin Turner, Grant Mellon, Bradley McLaughlin and Carson Walls.
Two seniors, Walls and Jason Miller, are vying for the top spots in the Swamp Fox pitching rotation. Church and Grayson are also expected to see a lot of time on the hill this season. Ashley Ridge has good depth at the position.
“We are trying to figure out who our No. 2 and No. 3 are,” Bellush said. “We have four or five sophomores with pretty good arms and we are figuring out whether they are going to be starters or relievers.”
So far, Aschenbrenner, Grayson, Aaron Miller and Conlee have been leading the team at the plate.
Bellush is expecting stiff competition in Region 8-AAAA this season.
“The region should be tough,” he said. “Summerville is the favorite coming in but FD will be much improved. Beaufort has two good pitchers coming back. I don’t know much about Bluffton or Colleton County but they are well coached. We are just trying to get better every game so we can be in the mix.”
ARHS Baseball Schedule
March 10: Bishop England
March 12: West Ashley
March 14: @ Bishop England
March 17: James Island
March 21: @ James Island
March 26: @ Bluffton
March 28: Fort Dorchester
March 31: Beaufort
April 2: : @ Summerville
April 4: : @ Colleton County
April 7: : Bluffton
April 9: : @ Fort Dorchester
April 11: @ Beaufort
April 14-18: HIT Tournament
April 21: Summerville
April 23: Colleton County
April 25: @ West Ashley