From red, white, and navy to white, blue, and navy – former Toombs County head baseball Coach Brian Fitzgerald is a head coach once again but not at Toombs County. Coach Fitzgerald is actually wrapping up his final year as a member of the faculty and staff at Toombs County High School. Coach Fitzgerald will become a part of the staff of Robert Toombs Christian Academy in the Fall of 2020. He will be the head coach of the Crusader Softball and Baseball team.
Brian Fitzgerald talks about becoming a Crusader
During his tenure as head coach of the Toombs County Bulldog Baseball team, Coach Fitz won 237 games, qualified for the GHSA State Playoffs eight times and beat arch rival Vidalia 19 times. But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Coach Fitzgerald brought excitement to the Bulldog baseball program. Sure there were a few up and down seasons. However, the Dawgs were liable to pull off an amazing, dynamic victory anytime they took the field. Fitzgerald made Dawg baseball fun from 2005 through 2018.
Coach Fitzgerald actually won his first game as the interim head coach of the Bulldogs in 2004 when he was an assistant coach. The Bulldogs beat Bleckley County in a home game and he was coaching the team because head coach Chris Harrelson had to miss the game because of the birth of his son Gage. Coach Fitzgerald was an assistant for two years at Toombs County before taking the head spot.
Fitzgerald in College
Coach Brian Fitzgerald played college baseball during the late 90s. He began his college days at Troy University in Alabama. He then transferred to Central Flordia Community College in Ocala, FL before ending up at Brewton Parker College in Mount Vernon, GA to finish his college playing days. Coach Fitzgerald was a catcher all throughout college baseball.
The beginnings of “Coach” Fitz
Fitzgerald began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Brewton Parker College under Coach Mike Robbins in 1996 and 1997. He was then a volunteer coach in 1998 and 1999. After that he became an Assistant Coach of the Barrons in 2000. He gained his first head coaching position at David Emanuel Academy in 2001 and 2002. He became an assistant coach at Toombs County in 2003 and 2004. Then Coach Fitz, was the head of the Bulldog baseball department.
Coach Fitz and the Bulldogs
In his 16 years at TCHS including his first two as an assistant before becoming the head coach, the Bulldogs made the playoffs 10 total times. In 2003 the Dawgs won a three-game first round series at Callaway High School before losing in the second round at Brantley County. The next season the Bulldogs had to make a serious late season push to make the playoffs. They won a crucial game at Jeff Davis thanks to a big catch in the bottom of the seventh inning by “The Rooster” to earn a trip to Alma to play Bacon County. TCHS lost in two games to the Raiders who went on to beat Jeff Davis for the AA State Championship.
Fitzgerald took over as the head coach in 2005 and made the state tourney that season and also in 2006 and 2007. In 2009 the Bulldogs not only made the playoffs but they also won a first round home series against Henry County in two games before traveling to Cook County.
In their fourth trip to Adel for the state playoffs the Bulldogs won their first game versus the Hornets. Javec King struck out a career-high 15 batters and allowed just two hits in a 12-0 seven inning win in game one. Senior Justin Adams opened the Bulldog scoring by hitting a two-run homer in the first, his 11th of the season and 23rd of his career. Lance Mosley also hit a two-run home run. In game two D.J. Johnson scattered nine hits and struck out 13 Bulldogs in an 11-1 Cook County victory.
The series ended with Cook’s 9-6 win. The Hornets led 8-0 and 9-1, however, the Bulldogs rallied with a five-run seventh. King singled in a run and four seniors followed with run scoring hits- Bryan Benton, Adams, Neal Rodgers and Taylor Dowd. The Bulldogs finished with a 22-8 record.
Fitzgerald won his 100th game on Tuesday April 14, 2009. Justin Adams hit a two-run first inning home run to right field and Neal Rodgers drilled a three-run homer way over the left field fence in the seventh and Rodgers tossed a complete-game three hitter with seven strikeouts and just one walk. In the Bulldogs 7-3 sub-region win at East Laurens.
In 2010 the Bulldogs went even deeper into the post season. Toombs defeated Brantley County in three games in round one with the Bulldogs winning game three 10-4. Berry Aldredge went 3-for-4 with three RBI and then in another three game home series in the second round, against Berrien County, Aldredge ended game three with a walk-off home run off the left field foul poll in a 6-5 Dawg victory in eight innings. Toombs lost at home in the Elite 8 round to Calhoun 7-0 and 6-1.
The Bulldogs missed the post season in 2011 and 2012. However, they made another run to the Elite 8 in 2013. As a number three seed TCHS swept Dublin in two games on the road- 5-3 and 12-1. In the second round the Bulldogs swept Fitzgerald at Jacky Jones Field 12-5 and 8-6. The season ended at Westminster (Atlanta) with a pair of losses- 7-1 and 11-3.
Toombs made the playoffs as a number four seed in 2014 and they reeled off a pair of wins at Bleckley County in the opening round. James Ethredge and Jeremy Beasley limited the Royals to just six hits and three runs in 17 innings of baseball which the Bulldogs won by scores of 4-3 in 10 innings and 7-1.
In the second round at Cook County the Hornets won game one 5-4 in 12 innings. Toombs took the second game 9-5 and Cook prevailed in the third game 12-8.
Toombs missed the playoffs in 2015 and 16. His 200th victory came on February 26, 2016. Nick Curtis pitched seven innings for the first time in his Bulldog career and led Toombs County to a 2-0 win over the Islands Sharks in Savannah. Curtis allowed only four hits in his shutout victory and he also contributed a RBI double in the sixth which drove in D.R. Meadows with the second run.
The Bulldogs finished the 2017 regular season with a six game winning streak to place fourth in the Region 2 standings. In the post season the Bulldogs won another six straight and all on the road. Fitzgerald’s Bulldogs swept Laney 14-3 and 15-0, then they beat Banks County 12-2 and 8-7 in eight innings. They advanced to the Final 4 for the first time since 1996 with a pair of victories at Dodge County 6-3 and 3-2 in eight innings. In the semifinals TCHS lost at Jeff Davis 9-6 and 13-3.