BY NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
There are numerous reasons why a successful high school coach would pack up and move more than four hours away for a new job — among them prestige, promotion and proximity.
For new Woodland head baseball and softball coach Todd Eubanks, a major factor in deciding to leave South Effingham High in Guyton came down to being closer to his family. The chance to return to Bartow County, where Eubanks previously spent time coaching at Cass, only further solidified the decision.
“Neither one of us is from Bartow County, but we spent enough time there that we do consider it a second home,” Eubanks said, referring to himself and his wife. “I have 486 wins [in baseball], so this coming season, I should get to the 500 mark. That will be a special point in my career, and I look forward to being able to do it in Bartow County and at Woodland High School. We’re excited, and I look forward to being back there, seeing old friends, old players and alumni. We’re looking forward to coming home.”
The 53-year-old Eubanks wanting to move back to the area and having several years of experience coaching baseball and softball lined up perfectly with the Wildcats’ needs, as Matt Montgomery — who coached both sports this past school year — left to take the head baseball job at Calhoun.
After serving as a Colonels assistant baseball coach during the 2001 season, Eubanks took over as Cass head coach for the 2006-07 school year. He guided the Colonels through the 2012 campaign and also led the Cass softball program his final four years at the school.
“I loved my time there,” Eubanks said of coaching the Colonels. “It was a great experience. I enjoyed the county; I enjoyed the area; and I enjoyed the people there.”
Following his stint at Cass, Eubanks coached baseball at Bowdon High in Carroll County for six years before heading to South Effingham, where he coached baseball for four years and softball for a short stint, as well.
His four seasons leading the Mustangs baseball team culminated with 77 total wins — an even more impressive feat when considering the COVID-19 pandemic limited South Effingham to just 13 games in 2020 — and 50 victories over the past two years. The Mustangs were eliminated from the Class 6A baseball playoffs the past two years by Cobb County programs Pope (2021 state champion) and Allatoona (2022 state runner-up) in the quarterfinals and second round, respectively.
“The expectation is to come in and be able to build programs in both baseball and softball that can compete not only locally but also state wide,” Eubanks said of coaching the Wildcats. “That’s something that I look forward to being able to try to do.”
Woodland did that successfully on both diamonds in Montgomery’s final season.
In softball, the Wildcats made their second-ever trip to Columbus for the double-elimination state tournament. Woodland went 2-2 at the event, defeating rival Calhoun and defending champion Jones County, en route to placing fourth in Class 5A — the best finish in program history.
“I know coach [Colman] Roberts had a great program before and spent many years there developing it,” Eubanks said of the Wildcats’ head coach prior to Montgomery. “Hopefully with this group here, we’ll be able to continue moving forward, make a few more trips to Columbus and bring home that trophy one day.”
To be fair, it might be a bridge too far to ask from the 2022 squad, which features just one senior in shortstop Cambrie Carrington.
With the pitcher Lainey Baker in addition to outfielders Michiah Hicks and Dylynn Motes having graduated, Woodland will be replacing some of the best players to ever put on the Wildcats uniform. However, Woodland does bring back several promising players — many of whom played extensively last fall.
“The nucleus is there,” Eubanks said. “Its a very young group. We have some freshmen who will come in and compete well. Coming out of South Effingham, it was a high-caliber program. I see a lot of similarities. We have young pitching, but it won’t be inexperienced pitching. These girls play very competitive travel ball during the summer. With it, it’s just a matter of how much do they develop to be able to play high school ball.”
It won’t take long for Eubanks to know the answer to that question.
In addition to a 15-game Region 7-5A schedule that should feature at least five programs jockeying hard for postseason bids, the Wildcats are slated to face a non-region gauntlet. Woodland is currently scheduled to face at least five teams in non-region play that were also in Columbus last year.
“The expectation is that it will be a highly competitive region,” Eubanks said. “I think these kids will be able to step in and play well. Coach Montgomery had set up a tough non-region schedule. We’re playing Buford, Gordon Lee and Northwest Whitfield. We’ll be challenged early and often to find out how fast we can play a little ball.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcats baseball program recently wrapped up a historic campaign with a berth in the 5A state playoffs.
Having been battle tested throughout the regular season, Woodland, as a No. 4 seed, put up a stiff challenge against Region 5-5A champion St. Pius X. The Wildcats fell late in a decisive Game 3 but showed Eubanks the type of determination that bodes well with a majority of the team’s key contributors set to return.
“It reminds me a lot of when I took over at Cass before with the fact that they made it to the state playoffs [the year prior],” Eubanks said. “They went in as a No. 4 seed with a .500 record, but they were able to compete with St. Pius. They almost made it to the Sweet 16, and that shows a grittiness about them.”
A University of South Carolina graduate, Eubanks believes Woodland will be able to build off the success.
“After meeting with those kids and their parents, their expectation is much like the softball program: They’re hungry,” Eubanks said. “They’re wanting to compete. Last year gave them a taste of what success was like on the state level. Our goal is that we will be able to go in, continue the success, win a few more games and see if we can develop them to a level where we can push them a little bit further in the playoffs.”
As he and his wife look for a place to live locally, Eubanks has been traveling to Woodland on a near-weekly basis for summer workouts with both teams. Soon, though, the couple will be back in the area full time.
More importantly, they will be living closer to each of their four children and their one grandchild.
“You get one chance to be a parent; you get one chance to be a grandparent,” Eubanks said. “My wife and I are excited to be able to come back and be able to do that, as well as be back in a community that we enjoy living in.”