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BASEBALL PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules

POSTED: February 14, 2014 12:56 p.m.
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Lambert shortstop Trey Logan signed with Georgia and returns to lead a Longhorns team looking to build off its Class AAAAAA second round appearance last season.

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FORSYTH CENTRAL

Coach: Kevin McCollum, sixth season.

Last season: 16-10, 12-8 in Region 7-AAAAA.

Key returners: SS Taylor Bauman, soph.; C/OF Michael Branigan, sr.; P Reed Clark, jr.; P/OF/1B Logan Howard, jr.; 1B Dee Kelly, sr.; C/DH Spencer Patterson, sr.; P Chase Peterson, sr.; OF/P Jeffrey Rous, sr.; P Nik Verbke, sr.

Key newcomers: C/OF Hunter Bauman, soph.; 3B Josh Meese, jr.; 2B Jason Phillips, jr.

Outlook: On the mound and at the plate are two different stories for the Bulldogs this season. Central returns two-thirds of its starting rotation in senior Nik Verbke and junior Reed Clark, both of whom throw in the mid-80s and have solid secondary pitches. Senior Chase Peterson and junior Logan Howard should split most of the innings in the No. 3 spot. But the only regular returners to the lineup are senior catcher/outfielder Michael Branigan and senior first baseman Dee Kelly. They each hit over .300 last season and will anchor the middle of the lineup. Elsewhere, sophomore Taylor Bauman returns at shortstop, and a young group, including sophomore Hunter Bauman, is competing for spots in the outfield. Coming off a season in which they finished one win short of making the state playoffs, the Bulldogs aren’t taking anything for granted. "They learned the lesson of how important each region game is no matter who you’re playing," Central coach Kevin McCullom said. "Hopefully that’s paying off."

 

LAMBERT

Coach: Jamie Corr, fifth season.

Last season: 17-10, 9-5 in Region 6-AAAAAA; lost in the Class AAAAAA second round.

Key returners: P Dylan Biumi, sr.; DH Jake Chickowski, sr.; 2B Eric Furphy, jr.; LF Jeremy Johnson, jr.; 1B Ian Kimbrell, jr.; P Thomas Kubiak, sr.; P Harrison Lee, sr.; SS Trey Logan, sr.; C Austin Loughmiller, sr.; CF Tucker Maxwell, soph.; P Kyle Smith, sr.

Key newcomers: RF/P Seth Beer, soph.; 3B Chris Cummings, jr.; 3B/P JD Dutka, jr.; C Kyle McCann, soph.

Outlook: Get ready to know the name Seth Beer. Perfect Game ranks the 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore rightfielder as the No. 2 player in the nation in the Class of 2016. Coach Jamie Corr hopes he can make an instant impact in the middle of the lineup with his left-handed bat and in the field with his right arm. But there are plenty of more reasons for optimism at Lambert, among them the middle infield combination of Georgia signee SS Trey Logan and Georgia Southern verbal commit 2B Eric Furphy who anchor a strong defense for the Longhorns. Yes, there are holes to fill. Western Carolina signee Dylan Biumi looks to step into the No. 1 starters’ role vacated by Co-County Pitcher of the Year Joe Vonderschmit, who graduated, with help from seniors Thomas Kubiak (Georgia Regents) and Harrison Lee (Sewanee). Talented junior Jeremy Johnson will replace South Carolina signee Brock Maxwell in centerfield – that is, until Brock’s younger brother, Tucker, returns from an early-season injury. Juniors Chris Cummings and J.D. Dutka will take over third base from Danny Edgeworth, who graduated. Regardless of all the transition, another playoff appearance is the expectation. "We’re confident in the guys who are going to step in," Corr said.

NORTH FORSYTH

Coach: Jim Cahill, 12th season.

Last season: 12-14, 5-9 in Region 6-AAAAAA.

Key returners: RHP Devin Barron, sr.; OF Cory Campbell, soph.; INF Griffin Caracciolo, jr.; RHP/OF Cody Gottberg, sr.; LHP/1B Matthew Heard, jr.; OF Bailey Mauldin, jr.; RHP Dylan Powers, sr.; INF Harris Roberts, sr.; OF Zac Slaton, soph.; INF Brant Stark, jr.

Key newcomers: INF/P Max Bening, jr.; OF Jordan Ecton, soph.; RHP Charlie Edwards, soph.; C Parker Enright, soph.

Outlook: The Raiders are celebrating 20 years of baseball in Coal Mountain this season but are doing so after losing a senior class that featured five college signees in Nick Aiken (Young Harris), Michael Henderson (Piedmont), Conor Pennington (Emmanuel), Chris Vincent (Piedmont) and Tyler Welch (Chattahoochee Valley CC). Even so, North missed the state playoffs for the first time in three seasons. The Raiders lack varsity experience and are thin at certain positions, but Coach Jim Cahill said he likes the roster’s speed and depth of pitching in returners Dylan Powers, Matthew Heard and Cody Gottberg and newcomers Max Bening and Charlie Edwards. The expectations may by on Lambert, Johns Creek, West Forsyth, etc., but Cahill said "the outlook for the Raiders this season is very good. We should compete for the region title."

PINECREST ACADEMY

Coach: Daniel Stockdale, third season.

Last season: 5-13, 4-9 in Region 8, Div. A.

Key returners: SS/P Anthony Carco, sr.; P Todd Mahaffey, soph.; C Andres Perez, soph.; OF/1B/P Matthew Walters, soph.

Key newcomers: INF/P Garrett Kliphouse, sr.

Outlook: The Paladins don’t lack for pedigree with sophomore catcher Andres Perez. The 6-foot-4, 237-pounder is the son of former Atlanta Braves catcher and current bullpen coach Eddie Perez. But Pinecrest does lack experience. Coach Daniel Stockdale started a bevy of freshmen and sophomores last season, and the record suffered for it. But the hope is that the core of now-sophomores Perez, pitcher Todd Mahaffey and Matthew Walters has improved after another offseason. With shortstop/pitcher Anthony Carco back and the addition of utility infielder/pitcher Garrett Kilphouse, the Paladins hope to take a step toward competitiveness again in the region.

 

SOUTH FORSYTH

Coach: Russ Bayer, fifth season.

Last season: 14-12, 8-6 in Region 6-AAAAAA.

Key returners: OF Sam Brady, jr.; RHP Logan Cole, jr.; RHP Will Foy, jr.; INF Nate Schmal, sr.; OF/RHP Michael Strait, jr.; RHP/INF Anthony Trovato, jr.

Key newcomers: INF Alex Andronica, soph.; OF Horbin Figueroa, jr.; OF Justin Graczyk, jr.; LHP/1B Alec Kliphouse, soph.; INF Jack Litras, jr.; RHP Caston McDonald, soph.; C/DH Jordan McGriff, jr.; C Zachary O’Neil, soph.; OF Curtis Roach, soph.

Outlook: Teams may wonder how the War Eagles will replace Zach McCrum, the Co-County Pitcher of the Year last season. So does Coach Russ Bayer. He said this is his first season at South without the luxury of a clear-cut No. 1 starter. But Bayer thinks the War Eagles can make up for that with depth behind juniors Logan Cole, Will Foy and Anthony Trovato, who all started last year. Cole will begin the season recovering from a basketball injury, which gives newcomers Alec Kliphouse and Caston McDonald, both sophomores, a chance to prove their worth until Cole returns right before region play. The addition of Jack Litras, who transferred from Lambert, should bolster a lineup that returns Trovato, Nate Schmal, Michael Strait and Sam Brady. The good news – Schmal is the only senior on the roster, meaning the War Eagles will once again be among the younger teams in the region. "With us being as young as we are, I think we have a chance to make some noise," Bayer said, "but the young guys have to step up."

WEST FORSYTH

Coach: Mike Pruitt, third season.

Last season: 16-12, 9-5 in Region 6-AAAAAA; lost in the Class AAAAAA first round.

Key returners: P Addison Albright, jr.; 1B Brett Anderson, sr.; P Zach Bitzer, jr.; 3B Johnny Cassandra, sr.; C Chris Cullen, jr.; LF Hampton McConnell, jr.; P Mason McWhorter, soph.; P Connor Milford, sr.; P Austin Shea, sr.; C Josh Tate, sr.; CF Alec Wilson, jr.

Key newcomers: None.

Outlook: Talk about talent. West may have the best collection of it in Forsyth. It starts on the mound with 6-foot-3 junior lefty Addison Albright, who is verbally committed to Georgia and could be poised for a breakout season as the Wolverines’ No. 1 starter. But West has a deep pitching corps with Georgia College signee Johnny Cassandra, Air Force signee Connor Milford, Austin Shea, Zach Bitzer and Mason McWhorter all returning from last season after logging significant innings. There’s talent behind the plate in Piedmont signee Josh Tate and junior Chris Cullen, who is verbally committed to South Carolina, and in the outfield, too, in juniors Hampton McConnell and Alec Wilson, who is verbally committed to Stanford. But Coach Mike Pruitt’s biggest concern is the middle infield, where he’s looking for two new starters from a group that consists of King’s Ridge transfer Jordan Harris and juniors Daniel Bowman, Matt Moon and Paxton Spessard. If they can solidify that spot, West could be the team to beat – just don’t tell that to Pruitt. "On paper we’ve put together a pretty good group of kids," Pruitt said. "You know how fast paper can burn."

 

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