VARNELL, Ga. - Of the many obstacles facing Michael Bolen as he mapped out his strategy for the inaugural baseball season at Coahulla Creek High School, a big one was how to overcome the stigma attached to new programs.
Bolen, a veteran of eight years coaching in the college ranks, has seen the value of confidence and did not want his young Colts to buy into the talk that they would be instant losers.
"Even though we're a first-year program, we had high expectations," Bolen said. "Why not us? That's what I told them. Somebody's got to be there, so why can't that be us? Yes, we're a new school, but our goals were to win games and fight for a playoff spot."
Two weeks into the season the Colts are 5-1, including a win over one of the area's most respected programs, Dalton. While the early success may have surprised most outside the program, Bolen knew from day one his team had the talent to succeed. Unlike with most first-year programs, he has the luxury of three seniors and two juniors for leadership.
"Those guys have been great leaders," Bolen said. "As a coach, I've always said, 'Practice is ours and game time is yours,' and the younger guys have bought into that in following the older ones. We've told them you will be rewarded if you put in the hard work, and they're seeing that right now.
"We have a good group of kids who came in with a chip on their shoulder, for whatever reason that may be. We're a new school and they weren't getting any respect, so they wanted to change that."
Nearly all of the players have roots in the successful Northwest Whitfield program, so the familiarity with each other has contributed to the early wins.
"With all of us playing together it gave us a head start," senior outfielder Austin Busby said. "We knew everyone could play. I don't know if I saw us winning four of our first five, but I knew it was possible."
Through five games the Colts were hitting a robust .394 as a team with 46 runs scored. Seven regulars were batting over .300, including third-place hitter Busby and cleanup batter Scout Plott, each at .400. The two had combined for 11 runs scored and 10 RBIs. The pitching is still a little unsettled, but sophomore lefty Braiden Jacobs and senior Tyler Higgins hold down the top two spots.
The Colts play in tough Region 7-AA, where state-ranked Calhoun and Adairsville are the annual kingpins, so the going likely will get tougher. But they edged Adairsville 1-0 on Thursday with Jacobs throwing a four-hitter.
"This is a big learning experience, so when bad things do happen we have to learn from them," said Plott, the junior catcher. "The last thing we wanted to do was to play like a first-year school. We want to be a playoff team. I'm pretty superstitious, but I think we should be a playoff team. If we do the little things right, we can get there."