Putnam baseball starts fresh with new coach

Waylon Wooten delivers a hit during Putnam County’s summer doubleheader against Jefferson County.

By Brandon Bush



The 2018 season was a rough one for the War Eagles on the diamond.

Putnam County baseball endured a hard season this spring. The Eagles finished with a 2-22 record, with the only two wins coming against Glascock County and more potential wins being left on the table. However, Putnam County looks ahead to next season and is already making changes in an attempt to turn around the program.

One of the biggest offseason moves for the War Eagles is the addition of new head coach, Ben Skinner. An experienced coach in several sports, Skinner replaces former Putnam County baseball coach Matt Riden, who departed from the school at the end of this year to pursue other opportunities.

“I think there’s a lot of potential at Putnam County,” Skinner said. “They’ve had a rough few years but, from what I’ve seen, there’s more wins on the field than we’ve been showing for the last few years.”

Originally hired to be the offensive line coach for the football team, Skinner later applied for the baseball coaching job once it became available. After an interview with athletic director Paul Stokes, he was offered the job, which he happily accepted.

Skinner spent the last eight years coaching private school baseball and spent the previous year as the head coach at Edmund Burke Academy. Skinner said that his wife working in public school and having a 3-month-old son made working in a public school more ideal and that Putnam County seemed like a great fit.

Skinner will be teaching at Putnam County Middle School while coaching the varsity baseball team as well as serving as the football team’s offensive line coach. Skinner said he was warmly received at Putnam and that Stokes and Putnam football coach Shaun Pope were “awesome guys that I knew I’d like to work with.”

Skinner is already bringing new ideas to Putnam, including something Putnam has never done before: summer baseball. His first task after being hired was to put together a summer baseball schedule, which includes 10 practices and six games with more possibly being added later.

“We’re just trying to get the kids to play baseball over the summer, which they have not been doing in the past,” Skinner said. “To get better, you have to play. Practice helps a lot and that’s how you master your craft, but nothing simulates game reps.”

Skinner added that pitchers and everybody who doesn’t play a fall sport will begin the throwing program in October and players will be in batting cages by November.

The decision to play summer ball paid off last Friday when Putnam County hosted Jefferson County for a doubleheader. Compared to the Eagles’ regular season outings, the first game of the summer doubleheader was a night-and-day difference as they won big, 7-0.

“They looked really good,” Skinner said. “We’ve only had two practices so far this summer and most of my kids are pulling double-duty with football workouts, so, for balancing all those things, my hat goes off to them because they’re doing a really good job.”

Brett Pettit took the mound Friday and impressively threw a perfect game in the initial match with the Warriors, and the Eagles made great defensive plays to keep Jefferson County from reaching first base. After going through so much the season before, Skinner said he believes that the early success has greatly improved the team’s morale.

“I think it boosted their confidence a ton,” Skinner said of the importance of their summer baseball win. “When I first met them, the heads were down. They had just come off a rough season, but just some early success this summer is getting them to buy in a little bit.”

Assisting Skinner this year will be new assistant coach Jarret Leverett, a Putnam County alumnus who had a phenomenal baseball career, including being drafted in the 15thround of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins. Skinner says that the players see how much work he and Leverett are putting into the program, which has led to them working harder and taking pride as a team.

Putnam County will continue to play summer games over the coming months while preparing its players for the coming season. With a whole new coaching staff steering the ship, the War Eagles will have an opportunity to break the cycle of rough years they’ve been having next season.

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