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2019 BASEBALL PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Forsyth Central pitcher Mitchell Gross throws against Lambert on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia
Denmark

Coach: David Smart, first season

Last season: N/A

Key returners: N/A

Key newcomers: P Dalton Hansard (Jr.), INF/P Jack Kream (Jr.), OF/P Matthew Cassandra (Jr.), C Carson Russell (Jr.), INF/P Jack Whitlock (Jr.), P Ben Whitlock (Jr.), P Carter Manley (Jr.), INF/OF Logan DeLong (Jr.), OF/P Trevor Bryk (Jr.), INF JJ Corr (So.), OF Teddy Davenport (So.), INF Nic Ferrer (Jr.), INF/P Aiden Whillock (So.)

Outlook: Like its other squads, Denmark’s baseball team will be looking to build chemistry during its inaugural season. Former Northside-Columbus and LaGrange head coach David Smart will have the task of building up the Danes’ new program, and he feels like has a good nucleus of sophomores and juniors to be competitive in most of their contests.

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South Forsyth's Landon Sims rounds first base after hitting a double in the first inning of the War Eagles' game against North Forsyth on March 13, 2018 at South Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

South Forsyth

Coach: Russ Bayer, 11th season

Last season: 28-8, lost in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs

Key returners: P/OF Landon Sims (Sr.), 1B/3B Cole Kliphouse (Sr.), C Colby Wheeler (Sr.), INF/P Josh Green (Jr.), P Steven Thompson (Sr.), P Peyton Presley (Sr.), P/1B/DH Tyler Cowan (Sr.), P/OF Peyton Rawlins (Jr.), INF Gehrig Frei (So.)

Key newcomers: INF Max Henry (So.), OF/P Conor Finegan (So.), UTL Jake Witterman (Sr.), OF/C Dylan Mazzei (Sr.), OF Mitchell Thomson (So.), P/OF Cameron Fox (Sr.), P Chris Dougherty (Jr.), P/3B Jack D'Amico (So.)

Outlook: With 2018 county pitcher of the year and prospective MLB draft pick Landon Sims returning for his senior season after a stellar junior year (0.90 ERA, 80 strikeouts in 62 IP) to go along with reliever Peyton Presley (1.53 ERA, 25 strikeouts in 18 1/3 IP), South will have a very nice foundation to work with on the mound. Defense also figures to be a strength for the defending Region 5-7A champions, but the War Eagles still feel like the offense needs to prove itself after losing four seniors that were key factors at the plate.

Forsyth Central

Coach: Kevin McCollum, 11th season

Last season: 12-21, lost in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs

Key returners: 3B/P Jonathan Bergmoser (Sr.), P/DH Mitchell Gross (Sr.), OF Chase Hillenbrand (Sr.), P Will Meisner (Sr.), P/DH Jacob Ryan (Sr.), 2B Greg Tasos (Sr.), SS AJ Fiechter (So.)

Key newcomers: OF Brady Hall (Sr.), OF Tristen Rose (Sr.), C Mason Sheffield (Sr.), 1B/3B Brandon Bick (Jr.), 1B/3B Ryan Gamble (Jr.), P Jake Hill (Jr.), C William Miller (Jr.), INF/OF Austin Trask (Jr.), P Will Robbins (So.)

Outlook: Despite losing highly-touted draft prospect Ethan Hankins, the Bulldogs will return two quality pitchers from last season in Jacob Ryan (2.26 ERA in 40 1/3 IP) and Mitchell Gross (56 strikeouts in 43 2/3 IP). For a team that’s looking to fill a lot of open spots in the field, that continued stability on the mound certainly looks like an asset. Still, Central brings plenty of experience at the plate, with Chase Hillenbrand, Greg Tasos and Jonathan Bergmoser all coming back as part of a nine-person senior class.

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Pinecrest Academy's Caleb Bohn pitches against North Forsyth on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia

Pinecrest Academy

Coach: Heath Kennedy, first season

Last season: 22-16, lost in the third round of the Class 1A Private playoffs

Key returners: P/OF Patrick O’Rourke (Sr.), P/IF Matthew Savage (Sr.), OF/P Mason Carter (Jr.), OF/P Sawyer Huffstettler (Jr.), IF Jay Sorohan (Jr.), IF/P Caleb Bohn (Jr.), C Connor Ensman (So.)

Key newcomers: IF/OF/P Connor Amitin (So.), IF Joey Kiernan (Jr.), OF/P Will Howell (Fr.)

Outlook: Heath Kennedy enters his first season at the head coach of the Paladins after bouncing around previous jobs at Flowery Branch, George Walton Academy and Hebron Christian Academy, where he won a state championship in 2011. Pinecrest loses some offensive firepower from last year in county player of the year Will Patota and infielder Ben Gobbel, who each hit over .400 en route to the Paladins’ deep playoff run. Staff ace Patrick O’Rourke returns this year, though – He struck out 82 batters over 76 innings and recorded a 2.67 ERA during his junior season.

North Forsyth

Coach: Jim Cahill, 17th season

Last season: 20-12, lost in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs

Key returners: OF Charlie Aiken (Sr.), P Sean Beckstrom (Sr.), OF Carter Mullikin (Sr.), P Brody Westbrooks (Sr.), P Anthony DiMola (Jr.), P Noah Gilbert (Jr.), IF/P Sammy Gore (Jr.), IF Miles Hartsfield (Jr.), IF Bennett Helms (Jr.), IF/P Ty Morrison (Jr.), OF/P Garrett Sagro (Jr.), IF Garrett Staton (Jr.)

Key newcomers: C/IF Justice Bailey (Jr.), 1B/P Jess Ackerman (So.), P Matthew Gist (So.), C Holton Payne (So.), C Michael Sills (So.), OF Kaiden Ellis (Fr.), OF/P Baylor Homesley (Fr.), P/C Cole Munhall (Fr.), P Hank Simonds (Fr.), IF/P Tyler Triche (Fr.)

Outlook: The Raiders lose four all-county pieces from their 2018 postseason run, including starting pitcher Tyler Fairchild and infielders Colin Sanders and Kyle Martin. Despite that, head coach Jim Cahill still sees a solid team that can compete for a strong finish in Region 5-7A. North will have plenty of upperclassmen to help lead that charge, including four seniors.

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West Forsyth's Wyatt Crowell, who also shined as an outfielder for the Wolverines in 2018, became the first junior baseball player in the county to commit to a Power 5 program. - photo by Brian Paglia

West Forsyth

Coach: Mike Pruitt, ninth season

Last season: 11-19, missed playoffs

Key returners: 3B/P Chance Burns (Sr.), OF/P Matthew Strzelecki (Sr.), C Parker Boldt (Sr.), 1B/P Marc Ellenburg (Sr.), 2B James Spota (Sr.), OF/P Wyatt Crowell (Jr.), 3B/P Barrett Roland (Jr.), OF/P Blake Whitfield (Jr.), SS/P Drew Southern (So.), C Kyle Peterson (So.)

Key newcomers: 1B/P Luke Cartenuto (Jr.), C Collin Ekerberg (Jr.), 1B Brock Imbornone (Jr.), OF/P Miller Jones (Jr.), 2B Dalton Roush (Jr.), OF/P Garrett Seitz (Jr.), OF Rhett Williams (Jr.), 2B Griffin Clark (Jr.), 3B Mason Williams (Jr.), SS/P Tommy Smith (So.), C Carson Boldt (So.)

Outlook: West will be looking to make it back to the postseason after missing out last year, but will have to do so with some hurdles. The Wolverines will be young in some important positions after losing infielder Ryan Gray and outfielder Connor Kirley, and injuries and redistricting have put a strain on the pitching rotation. There is good news for the Wolverines, though – they played a lot of sophomores last year like Wyatt Crowell (.306 average, 2.10 ERA in 30 innings pitched) that hope to build on that early experience this season, and they’ll have five seniors to lean on for leadership.

Lambert

Coach: Rick Howard, fourth season

Last season: 12-18, missed playoffs

Key returners: IF Nate Gabbert (Sr.), IF Ben Asher (Sr.), OF John Thompson (Sr.), IF/P Jonathan Hemings (Sr.), C Garrett Hollenbeck (Jr.), P Matthew Esz (Sr.), P David Mapes (Sr.), P Asher McAllister (Sr.)

Key newcomers: P/OF Daniel Fischer (Jr.), OF/P Will Hensley (Jr.), IF Brentan Newberry (Jr.)

Outlook: Lambert returns a few key players from last year, including 2018 all-county infielder Jonathan Hemings, who led the Longhorns at the plate with a .404 average and four home runs. Despite that, they’ll also be depending on several new players to help carry the load left by last year’s group of seniors, but head coach Rick Howard has seen his players buying into his system. To him, Lambert’s chances to be competitive this year will depend on its ability to ‘fail and recover.’