Rabun County looks to build on 2015 campaign

Posted 2/19/16

Rabun County's Eli Gipson is one of four returners from the Wildcats' 2015 team. (Special Photo)

By Tim Morse

Georgia Dugout Preview

CLAYTON -- Senior infielder Eli Gipson remembers the feeling after Rabun County upended perennial state power Lovett in the Class AA state quarterfinals last year.

"We played them the year before and they swept us," Gipson said. "Last year, I'm not sure if they thought we were a bunch of mountain boys that weren't very good or whatever, but we surprised them."

The Wildcats dethroned Union County as Region 8-AA champions last year, swept Dade County and Bacon County before upending Lovett in the three games. They lost in the semifinals to eventual state runner-up Darlington.

But the Wildcats got the attention of the state when they eliminated Lovett, a program that has won three state titles in the past 10 seasons.

The 2015 season was a record-setting year for Rabun County, who before last year's run, had never advanced to the quarterfinals. In fact, the Wildcats' last postseason appearance was in 2000.

The program lost its head coach, Daniel Young, who resigned after the Wildcats' postseason run to return home to Southwest Georgia. That left assistant Justin Clutter, who has head coaching experience from his days at Habersham Central, in charge of the program.

He inherited four starters but suffered a big blow when star pitcher/outfielder Alden Wright suffered an ACL injury during the football season and will miss the entire season. But Clutter and the Wildcats are moving forward.

Wright went 7-2 with a 2.58 ERA last year as the team's ace, while also batting .390 with 21 RBIs.

However, a strong corps of seniors return and a strong corps of underclassmen look to keep Rabun County relevant in the Georgia high school baseball world.

"We've got a good corps of kids back ... this senior class, they're winners," Clutter said. "They made a big run in football in which most of the kids also play football."

Clutter said last year's success served as a springboard. More than 30 players came out for baseball workouts in January, which Clutter said is the most he's seen in his six years at the school.

Even without Wright, the Wildcats have enough leadership that Clutter believes will help a solid corps of freshmen and sophomores.

Gipson returns at second-base after a strong campaign, junior Trey Wilcox is back at shortstop, while sophomore Bailey Fisher is expected to take over at third-base.

The Wildcats have seniors Jack Johnson and Tyler Harris returning in the outfield, but Clutter said Johnson may see more time behind the plate after catching in several games last season.

That brings up the pitching rotation. The bulk of the innings will be eaten up by junior right-hander Logan Dills and sophomores Chase Horton and Grayson Lane, a rotation Clutter said he's comfortable with. Freshman Austin Jones is also promising.

"But we have as many as eight or nine guys that can toe the rubber," he said.

Gipson believes the foundation has been established for the Wildcats to be strong for many seasons.

"Last year was awesome," he said. "We lost Alden which is going to hurt, but we do have several kids who have played together for a long time. We are still building a program for all Rabun County sports. We want to do the best we can in all sports."


Rabun County's Alden Wright went 7-2 with a 2.58 ERA last year as the team's ace, while also batting .390 with 21 RBIs.


(l-r), Jack Johnson, Trey Wilcox and Tyler Harris return for the Wildcats. (Special Photos)