Decatur baseball continues to strengthen reputation

Decatur High School baseball had one of the best rosters in school history in 2020, according to Head Coach Robby Gilbert. The team even adopted the motto “ring chasing” after coming off a Final Four appearance and returning one of the best senior classes in Georgia.

The 2020 Decatur baseball team had 10 seniors who received offers to play college baseball, two projected as potential draft picks, and one who went in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft. However, Decatur only won eight baseball games in 2020.

The Bulldogs were on pace to win more than eight games, but had their season shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That was a tough pill to swallow, professionally and emotionally,” said Gilbert. “I’ve said it many times, but those kids were great on the field and even better off of it.”

Gilbert said having several seniors set up for future success and a talented group of underclassmen lessened the blow, but it didn’t take all of the pain away.

“You don’t get a team like that very often,” said Gilbert. “It’s bitter to talk about last year. They were a tremendous group of young men and for them not to finish what they started was hard.”

Gilbert said his team hitting better gives them a chance against any team in the state.

Despite the disappointing end to the 2020 season, Gilbert has Decatur baseball clicking once again in 2021, and the Bulldogs continue to strengthen the reputation that Gilbert has helped build.

The Bulldogs currently sit at 14-4 and 6-0 in region play and have their eyes set on the same prize that last season’s Bulldogs sought.

“Expectations don’t change,” said Gilbert. “We have an expectation and standard we want to keep, whether it’s the kids first year here or the last year here. This team has done a good job at accepting that challenge.”

Members of the 2020 Decatur baseball senior class said they expect the 2021 class to pick up where 2020 left off.

“We’re hoping for a good year for the upcoming seniors, because they were right there with us,” Decatur baseball alum Jaxson Sprull said after his senior season ended. “They impressed me with how much they contributed, so I just hope they get a chance to continue on with what we didn’t get a chance to finish.”

Decatur can make Sprull and his class proud. While the Bulldogs have four losses, two of the four losses came against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in 7A, and the others come against 13-2 Lakeside DeKalb High School and 12-4 East Paulding High School. Gilbert also said this year’s team is improving.

While Gilbert gives all the credit to his players and coaches, he also reached a milestone this season with his 100th win as Decatur’s head coach.

“They got me pretty good with an ice bath after the game. That was breathtaking,” said Gilbert. “Personally, it’s exciting, but I’m really happier for what it means for our program. We’ve worked hard to establish who we were in the region and the state and it has been good to see how we progressed in the five years I’ve been here.”

Gilbert has built a reputation at Decatur since taking over the program. In his first year, the Bulldogs went to the Elite Eight and won a region championship for the first time in 66 years. They’ve also won their region for the last three years.

Gilbert didn’t let the pandemic and losing a great senior class stop him from furthering that reputation.

He said when he took over as the Bulldogs’ head coach, the top programs in the state didn’t want to play Decatur. The Bulldogs have now built a reputation as a top team and scheduled teams such as Grayson High School and Brookwood High School this season.

Proof of Decatur’s success and reputation is also seen in the win column. After losing a star-studded senior class, this year’s team had more wins through the first 14 games of the season than last year’s team, and Gilbert expects them to keep winning.

“I tell my team to control what they can control and go out there and play good baseball,” said Gilbert. “We’re just trying to keep it going. They’ve done a good job of meeting our expectations and the program’s expectations.”

Decatur has played plenty of good baseball this season. Against Stone Mountain High School March 7, Jack Joiner threw a perfect game; Cole Turner threw a no-hitter against Martin Luther King Jr. High School March 19, which Decatur won a double header against by a combined score 29-0.

About half of Decatur’s 2020 season is over, and Gilbert said he thinks the Bulldogs will win their region if they beat St. Pius X Catholic High School in their upcoming series. The Bulldogs play at St. Pius March 26 at 5 p.m. and host St. Pius March 29 at 5:55 p.m.

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