Jon Brewer had to adapt to survive.
At Chestatee, where Brewer coached the past four seasons, the War Eagles were locked in one of the toughest baseball regions in the state, matched against Blessed Trinity, Flowery Branch, Marist — then Denmark in 2019.
Chestatee lacked the firepower to keep pace with those schools offensively, so Brewer carved out a niche, teaching the War Eagles to snag an extra base when the opportunity presented itself.
"It was tough," Brewer said. "Really early on in my time at Chestatee I was a little bit bitter, just because we had to play those types of schools. Really, the dynamics of my school were totally different than a Blessed Trinity or a Marist."
Now, Brewer hopes to bring that strategy to Pinecrest Academy, where he will replace Heath Kennedy, who coached the Paladins for three seasons.
Brewer coached Chestatee for four seasons, most recently leading the team to a 13-13 overall record in 2019, including a 5-7 mark in a demanding Region 7-4A. Chestatee narrowly missed the playoffs in a region that sent all four teams to the second round of the playoffs, including two — Denmark and Blessed Trinity — to the semifinals.
Chestatee earned wins over Denmark, Flowery Branch, West Hall and White County that year, swiping 22 bases in five wins.
In all, the War Eagles converted 78 percent (38 for 49) of their attempted steals against region opponents in 2019.
"That's just how it was," Brewer said. "I had a lot of great kids that were willing to be coached up, but we didn't have a lot of power in our lineup for four years. I only had two or three kids that could do damage, so I had to take advantage of walks, hit by pitches and really just singles. The biggest thing that we always talked about was, 'How can we turn a single, a walk or a hit by pitch into a double as efficiently as we can without giving up any outs?'"
Chestatee swiped six bases last season during a 4-2 loss to Blessed Trinity and 10 bases in an 8-1 win against West Hall.
"That's what we would do," Brewer said. "I had a lot of singles hitters, and we'd get them to second, get them to third as quick as we could, and as efficient as we could, and that really helped us scrape across runs with a traditionally low-powered offense."
Brewer led Chestatee to the first round of the playoffs in 2017 and 2018. He also coached Rockdale County from 2015-16, winning the Region 2-6A championship in 2016 and reaching the playoffs both seasons.
He'll inherit a Pinecrest program that displayed an affinity for stealing bases in 2019, as Jay Sorohan (24) and Mason Carter (20) combined for 44 steals.
However, both players graduated this year, as did Mercer signee Caleb Bohn, and Pinecrest will transition into a new region in the fall.
Prior to Rockdale County, Brewer coached at his alma mater Elbert County, as well as Eagle's Landing Christian Academy.
He noted the private school atmosphere as a reason for applying to Pinecrest.
"For my 1-year-old and my wife and I, we just wanted that," Brewer said. "We're at that point in my career, and at that point in my life, where we were looking for more of a family than just a school. That's what led us to Pinecrest."
Brewer's hire marks the third coaching change in the past month for the Paladins, who hired Shawn Coury to replace Terance Mathis as head football coach and Chris Kane as interim athletic director.