Banks Faulkner’s first season as head baseball coach at Summerville High was bittersweet. The nationally ranked Green Wave compiled a 25-4 record but fell short of their ultimate goal — a state championship.
Summerville’s loss to Sumter in the district finals a year ago serves as a source of motivation for the Green Wave this seaason.
“We had a really good group of guys, good players and good young men and we definitely felt we were capable of playing longer than we did,” Faulkner said. “Certainly the guys we have coming back are pushing themselves and the new guys very hard. Our offseason was as hard and as demanding as anything I’ve ever been a part of and these guys responded very well.”
However, losing in the playoffs is just part of what drives the Green Wave this spring. Something far more impactful than losing a baseball game sits in the hearts and minds of every player and coach at Summerville.
In December, the Summerville family lost one of its own when senior outfielder Tripp Rabon was killed in a car accident while heading out on a hunting trip with some classmates. The loss was devastating, not only to the baseball team but to the entire school.
Rabon participated in football and baseball at Summerville but was not a star athlete. He was a “role player” on the field, and off the field he was as beloved and well-liked as any student at Summerville. He enjoyed life, he enjoyed his friends, and he loved Summerville baseball.
Rabon rarely played in games last spring but that never dulled his enthusiasm for the game or for his teammates.
“His attitude and his work ethic were contagious,” Faulkner said. “He was an unbelievable teammate. He never complained about not playing. He loved this team. He loved being around the game and instead of coming here every day and just going through the motions, he showed up and busted his tail. Never once did I see poor body language or hear him say a discouraging word. It’s definitely different not having him here every day, smiling and laughing and just being Tripp.”
Faulkner says he and the team honors Rabon every day. He does not shy away from bringing up the painful memory because he feels Tripp’s presence is still in the dugout. In a sense, this season is not so much about the players who are here but more so about the one player who is not.
“We talk every day about Tripp,” he said. “We go out to the banner in the outfield and we say a prayer every day. I tell our kids we have to honor Tripp every day with the way we practice and the way we play. It’s a great source of motivation — to make Tripp proud of us — and it means a lot to every player on this team.”
As for this year’s team, pitching will lead the way for the Green Wave. Returning are three seniors who will be pitching in college — Sawyer Bridges (USC), Bo Gobin (The Citadel) and Wilson Beattie (USC).
Senior Jack Bahen (Presbyterian College) returns behind the plate as one of the state’s top catchers and senior Brock Tobin (Florence-Darlington) is back at shortstop. Gobin also returns as the starting second baseman.
There are new faces on the corner infield spots and the entire outfield is new. Faulkner, however, feels the team is talented enough to make a run at the Class AAAA state title.
“We’re inexperienced in a few spots so we need some time to grow and mature, but I really feel we will be a much better team in May than we are in March,” Faulkner said. “Last year we might have peaked too early. I think this team will be better overall late in the year. I’m very pleased with where we are right now but it’s not where we’re going to be at the end.”