MOULTRIE -- One of the goals of the Colquitt County baseball team's coaching staff this year was to mine Sherard Reynolds's offensive and pitching potential.

If the first two games of the 2004 season are any indication, plenty of progress has been made in those directions.

As a sophomore last year, Reynolds played center field all season, and Packers head coach Jerry Croft calls him one of the best he has ever had at that position.

But Reynolds struggled at the plate, and the Packers used Cody Turpen as a designated hitter to bat for him much of the season.

Reynolds finished last year 0-for-19, unable to get on base consistently and put his speed and base- running ability to best use.

But learning to keep his weight on his back foot while at the plate may have made the difference in turning Reynolds from a confused and lunging hitter last season to a much-more confident one in the early going this year.

It took only two pitches for Reynolds to get his first varsity base hit, lining a one-ball single to left off Worth County's Zack Whitman in the season-opener on Monday.

Reynolds reached base three more times in the 15-7 victory over the Rams, adding a triple and another single and getting aboard on an error by the shortstop.

In his other at bat, he was called out on an infield grounder that many in the Packers dugout and in the stands at Cook High felt he had beaten out.

On Wednesday against Fitzgerald, Reynolds singled, walked and doubled in what proved to be the winning run in the 5-4 victory over the Hurricanes.

In the Packers first two games of the season in the Dairy Queen-Hornet Classic in Adel, Reynolds has reached base seven times in eight plate appearances and has scored six runs.

He is 5-for-7, has stolen five bases, including three in one inning on Wed-nesday, has driven in three runs and has a double and a triple.

"He has really worked hard on his hitting," Croft said. "He has been very conscientious about it."

Croft said there may still be "one or two mechanical flaws" in Reynolds' swing, "but if it isn't broke, we aren't going to fix it. He's got such good hand-eye coordination. And he's very coachable."

And while his offensive surge as the Packers leadoff batter has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises in the first two games of the season, he has not confined his outstanding play to the batters box and base paths.

He also has five putouts and one lead-saving assist, when he cut down Fitzgerald's Trent Taylor at the plate in the sixth inning to complete an 8-2 double play and protect the Packers one-run lead.

Reynolds also took the mound in the seventh inning to protect that same 5-4 lead and all he did was strike out the only three batters he faced.

But Reynolds versatility should not be surprising.

For the second year in a row, he is playing his third straight major varsity sport for Colquitt County High.

And he joins a short list of athletes who have started on the football, basketball and baseball teams, joining, in recent years, Chris McCranie, Reggie Stancil and Lerenzo Banks.

Reynolds was, perhaps, the most valuable player on the Packers football team last fall, starting at cornerback and wingback, playing receiver, returning punts and leading the team in several offensive and special teams categories.

On the basketball team, Reynolds was charged mostly with handling the ball and was not asked to put up big scoring numbers.

But he should be able to do plenty of scoring this spring if he can continue to reach base ahead of Turpen, Will Southwell, Johnathan Walker, Thomas Tripp and others.

After walking from the mound on Wednesday with a big smile after the win over the Hurricanes, Reynolds caught the game ball flipped to him by Croft and said he believed he would eventually start hitting.

"I knew I could do it," he said.

The coaching staff believed in him as well and a new-found slider could make him one of Region 1-AAAAA's top double-threats.

The three Fitzgerald batters he faced on Wednesday were helpless against it.

"I got the slider this summer," said Reynolds, who had a 1-1 record with an 3.73 ERA last year. "Coach (Marlon) Daniels told me to use and Coach (Keith) Croft worked on it with me.

"He said to start it in the middle of the plate and let it break out of the strike zone."

Jerry Croft called Reynolds' slider on Wednesday "nasty."

"It's become his favorite pitch," the Packers head coach said. "It's his out pitch now."

Reynolds will get to use it again today when the Packers meet Hornet Classic host Cook High at 7 p.m. in Adel.

Croft said he will stick to his plans to start his right-hander against the Hornets, who were ranked No. 4 in Class AA in the Georgia Dugout Club preseason poll.

Reynolds needed just 15 pitches to get out of the seventh inning on Wednesday.

"He didn't do any more than he'd do in the bullpen the day before a start," Croft said.

The Hornets are coming off a 16-13 record in 2003, when they finished fourth place in Region 2-AA and reached the state quarerfinals.

They were shutout 5-0 by Fitzgerald in their season-opener on Monday.

PACKERS NOTES: The Packers used sophomore Sam Heath in center field when Reynolds went to the mound in the seventh inning on Wednesday.

Heath joins the roster to provide some depth after Ross Cox went down with a sprained knee on Monday. Cox, a senior getting his first chance to start, singled and walked before getting hurt. He could be out two weeks, Croft said.

Cox joins Mike Mobley in street clothes. Mobley is out after suffering a knee injury playing basketball in a physical education class.

Like Reynolds, Team Georgia veteran Will Southwell is off to a hot start with five hits in his first six at bats. He has a double and has driven in three runs.

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