Reginald Austin is a former NFL cornerback who was asked four years ago to take over Mays’ baseball program. A track-and-field coach at the time, Austin was thrilled to do it.
‘’I was an all-city player in baseball coming up [at Harper High in Atlanta] and played a little baseball at Wake Forest,’’ Austin said. “I was better at football, but baseball is my first love. I have a baseball family.’’
Austin’s brother Joseph is a hitting and fielding instructor in Atlanta, and his nephew Jay Austin is a former second-round MLB Draft pick of the Houston Astros.
Four years into Austin’s tenure, the team is on the brink of what Mays believes would be the school’s first-ever region championship in baseball. Mays is 15-1 overall, 10-0 in 6-AAAAA.
This is a program that won only seven games in Austin’s first season, then 14, then 18, then 14 again. Mays has reached the state playoffs the past two seasons, but lost in the first round.
‘’Things turned around when the kids are now seniors first came into the program,’’ Austin said. “These were baseball-ready kids who were playing on the travel-ball circuit. They were playing for the East Cobbs and the 643s [widely known travel programs in metro Atlanta] of the worlds. Baseball was their thing. When you have three or four kids like that, that helps build a program.’’
The most prominent of those is senior Xzavion Curry, a Georgia Tech commitment. He is 7-1 with a 1.17 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 42 innings. He throws 92-93 mph consistently in games.
Mays has its deepest pitching staff to date. Malique Foreman, another four-year varsity player that kick-started the program, is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA. Junior Trent Jamison is 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA.
Curry, who plays shortstop, is a powerful hitter, too. He’s batting .465 with five home runs. Jamison is batting .415.
Tervont Johnson, a four-year varsity player who plays every position but catcher, is batting .430 with six doubles. Outfielder Blake Fraley, a senior transfer from Walton, is hitting .565 with 14 doubles and two home runs.
The other seniors are outfielder Santonio Mapp, OF/IF D'Anthony Morrow and first baseman Keevis Montgomery and outfielder Isaiah Blasingame.
‘’We feel pretty confident about our team this year because we have a great group of [eight] seniors,’’ Austin said. “In past years, we’ve been great on defense, but we didn’t hit well enough to advance. This year, hitting is our strength. We’ve been scoring way more runs than in the past. That’s helped a lot.’’
Winning the region will be critical to the team’s post-season success. Mays has never been a No. 1 seed with a home playoff series. That’s the goal. The season has been what Mays could only dream about four years ago.
‘’It’s really fun, especially to see how hard these kids have worked and see it come together like it has,’’ Austin said. “I love being around those kids, it’s been a magical year.’’