JOHNSONVILLE, S.C. – Even before Johnsonville’s first game, coach Quentin Davis had a feeling about this season.
So much so, he confided an observation with assistant Kenny Baxley.
“We’re going to state,” Davis said.
The Flashes indeed reached the SCHSL 1A final before losing to Southside Christian. After Johnsonville finished 7-8 last year, Davis’ team went 16-6 this campaign, complete with district and lower state championships.
“I think last year, we had a bunch of juniors and we weren’t a young team. But they hadn’t had any varsity experience, really,” said Davis, the Morning News Baseball Coach of the Year.
Case in point: Not every team got to play all its games in 2021. And early in the 2020 season, it was canceled for everybody.
“Last year, they took some lumps, but they came into this year and bought into the program and what we were trying to do and how we were trying to do it,” Davis said. “And that, along with the community backing us, was key. We had a huge amount of support from the community, and they also played a big part in turning this all around.”
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A different approach at the plate also helped.
“We didn’t swing at the plate very well last year; we struck out a lot,” Davis said. “I think we took an approach this year that we were going to put the ball in play. We can run really well. If we put the ball in play and some guys in their field make mistakes, we’ll have some success.”
Davis played for Darlington while attending Mayo High School for Math, Science & Technology (graduated in 2001). He was also a standout at Francis Marion before being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 13th round in 2005. He made it to Double-A ball before realizing something was missing.
“One day I went out and I didn’t have butterflies at the national anthem,” Davis said. “And that was odd since I usually get nervous before every game and have butterflies. I didn’t have them the next day, and the day after. And that kind of told me playing wasn’t the same thing as it used to mean to me.”
After Davis put his playing days in the past, he became an assistant at Darlington, then Johnsonville under then-coach Billy Sylvester (now coach at Conway).
It was a matter of time before Davis himself became coach of a baseball team. And, Johnsonville gave him that chance.
“I try to coach with the mentality I played with,” Davis said. “If your shirt tail isn’t out, and you don’t have to keep tucking it in, then you weren’t playing. So I push my guys to be scrappy, and that’s something you can’t teach. This team was as scrappy as anybody. This town is scrappy, so I think this fits me perfectly.”