CONYERS -- For a Heritage baseball team built on senior firepower, both on the mound and at the plate, it was the steadiness of junior Darryl Buggs that very likely put the Patriots over the hump en route to a 2019 state championship.
From his team-best 15-game hitting streak, to his team-leading .395 batting average, Buggs was Mr. consistency at the plate. The junior led the team in hits with 49 and finished with a gaudy .481 batting average with runners in scoring position.
On the mound, Buggs complimented his consistency with a side of nastiness.
Used primarily as the Patriots’ go-to relief pitcher, Buggs pitched his way to a 5-1 record and held a sub 1.00 ERA up until the Class 6A semifinals. He finished the season with a 1.75 ERA while averaging a fastball that narrowly missed touching 90.
As deadly as Buggs was when he took the mound for the Patriots in 2019, his hot bat overshadowed everything. Over the course of the Patriots’ 13 playoff games, Buggs batted 25-for-50, good enough for a .500 average.
Buggs managed to crush pitching while hitting in the middle of the lineup for the Patriots, a spot he felt the most comfortable in.
“There is something about hitting in the five and six hole that makes me feel better,” Buggs said. “Coach (Shane) Ramsey changed the lineup a couple of times and had me hitting leadoff and second. It was when he dropped me down that I had the most success.”
In several instances, Buggs found himself walking up to the plate following opposing teams pitching around his fellow teammates. With his confidence growing with each passing at-bat, Buggs said he lived for those moments.
“I just took it as another opportunity to help my team out,” Buggs said. “If they wanted to pitch around someone, I just wanted to step up to the plate and do my job and help the team out as best as possible.”
After putting together an above average sophomore campaign for the Patriots in 2018, a season in which Buggs hit .347 and drove in 18 runs all while compiling a 3-1 record on the mound to pair with a 2.43 ERA, it was the following offseason that forced him to keep his foot on the gas.
“I was working hard over the offseason,” Buggs said. “I had the support at home and the support on the field from coach Ramsey and my father and mother. During the offseason, I would come up here just about every day during the summer just work on my swing, pitching, defense. Everything.”
Playing for Team Elite during the summer, Buggs was tabbed as the Patriots’ Opening Day third baseman, a spot he didn’t know he would play until days before the start of the season.
“It was pretty exciting,” Buggs said. “Ramsey trusted me at third base. I had to show him that I was capable of playing both third base and outfield when I wasn’t pitching. I have a couple of the best highlights of my life playing third this season.”
When he wasn’t preparing to play the field, Buggs was working on his pitching constantly. In the months leading up to the season, the rising junior saw a major jump in his progression on the mound.
“Last summer, the highest that I hit was 83 MPH,” Buggs said. “After the summer, I started working out over at Heritage and that’s when the speed started getting up. My first bullpen with Ramsey, he told me that I hit 87 or 88.”
With all three of the Patriots’ starting pitchers in 2019, Griffin Holcombe, Nick Watson-Garcia and Nolan Woodward all signing on to play college baseball, Buggs said his game on the mound only got better working with them throughout the season.
“Griffin and Nick are Division 1 players,” Buggs said. “They taught me a lot during the season. How to get more command on my fastball, offspeed pitches and how to work on getting my velocity up more.”
With his velocity hovering around between 88 and 89 MPH by season’s end, the soon-to-be senior thinks he can increase it further.
“Hopefully I can get it to 95,” Buggs said. “That’s the goal.”
For his great junior season, Buggs was named to the All-State second team for Class 6A. He also received his first Division 1 offer from North Carolina A&T. Last week, Buggs was offered by Columbus State, his second official offer to date.
In the heart of his travel ball season with Team Elite for the summer of 2019, Buggs said that while he’s focused on improving his game further, he’s taking time out to work on his recruitment, too.
“I can say that It’s been both exciting and stressful,” Buggs said of his recruitment. “The stressful part about it is, I don’t know where I want to go to school yet. I don’t have that much time to decide in my eyes. But the exciting part is that it has boosted my confidence even more. I feel like I actually have a chance to go D-1 now.”
With no clear timetable set up for Buggs to commit, there are a few key aspects of his game he has steadily been working on this summer. One involves his power at the plate.
“During the season, I wasn’t using my legs as much, “Buggs said. “This summer, my Team Elite coach and Ramey told me that I need to sink in my legs more because it will generate more power. So far, it has paid off.”
Overall, Buggs continues to trend upward with no sign of slowing down.
“I’m more consistent with my swing and I’m hitting the ball the best I’ve ever had,” Buggs said. “I felt like I got a whole lot better with that. I should be carrying it on over into my senior season, too.”