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2010 Baseball team previews
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Banks County Leopards

Coach: Joe Lord

Last year’s record: 19-10

Key players: SS/P Bill Redmon, Sr. (.404 OBP.; 4-0, 1 save); C/INF Kyle Smith, Sr. (4 HR, .342 avg., 26 RBIs)

2010 Outlook: The Leopards have been on the rise in recent years, improving under Lord each season since 2005. It culminated last spring when Banks County advanced to the second round of the state playoffs and took eventual semifinalist Westminster to the brink.

That trend of success will be difficult to continue considering the amount of talent the Leopards lost to graduation, including four members of The Times 2009 All-Area team.
Smith, another All-Area selection and a Middle Georgia College signee, and Redmond will form the foundation of a team that will be seeking replacements for six starters.

One thing the Leopards haven’t lost is Lord’s penchant for aggressive baserunning. Last year Banks County put pressure on opposing pitchers by running often and with great success (65 steals in 71 attempts). That helped the Leopards average 8.5 runs per game, including 12 games of 10 runs or more.

Buford Wolves

Coach: Tony Wolfe

Last year’s record: 12-13

Key players: OF Brian Clark, Jr. (.410 avg., 9 RBI’s); 2B Adam Schrader (.408 avg., 10 RBIs); C Woody Ciepiela (.364 avg., 6 RBIs).

2010 Outlook: The Wolves are coming off just their second losing season in the last 14 years. Last season, Buford lost seven games by just one run. Buford plays in talent-rich Region 6-AA against Lovett, Westminster and Blessed Trinity, all ranked in the preseason Top 10.

Buford will find out early how talented the team is with a string of six consecutive games against Region 7-AAA opponents, including West Forsyth, Lambert, and a pair of games against both North Hall and East Hall.

Chestatee War Eagles

Coach: Wes Gentry

Last year’s record: 8-17

Key players: P Kevin Clifford, Sr. (35 IP); P Scott Chewning, Jr.; James Kibbler, Sr.; Zack Sisk, Sr.

2010 Outlook: “We have good talent, we just have to execute and transfer our practice habits to the game situation,” Gentry said. “If we show up and play consistently, then we can control our own destiny.”

Commerce Tigers

Coach: Steve Cottrell

Last year’s record: 16-10

Key players: 3B/P Carl Allen, Sr. (.400 avg.; 2.67 ERA, 80 Ks in 67 innings); OF/P Colton Davis, So. (.320 avg.); 2B Ethan Thomas, Jr. (.400 avg.); OF Chase Barnett, Jr. (.310 avg); C/P Josh Swistak, So. (.302 avg., 5 saves)

2010 Outlook: The Tigers made big strides last year in their first season under Cottrell, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1998. But 2009 ended in heart-breaking fashion, as Eagles Landing Christian closed out Commerce with a 2-1 win in 11 innings to cap a first-round sweep. With seven starters returning and the taste of success still fresh, the Tigers have their sights set higher in 2010.

Allen leads the pitching staff and will be expected to carry a share of the offensive load as well. Hunter Ward, one of the team’s best hitters last season has graduated, but Cottrell is expecting good things from a strong corps of underclassmen that includes sophomore shortstop Cody Streetman.

Dawson County Tigers

Coach: Jimmy Pruett

Last year’s record: 14-12

Key players: P/SS Chase Gilreath, Sr.; P/SS Chase Williams, Sr.; OF Mitch Starling, Sr.; C Kaleb Kicklighter

2010 Outlook: “We have eight seniors returning with a lot of varsity experience,” Pruett said. “If we can stay healthy we can have a successful season.”

East Hall Vikings

Coach: Wesley Crow

Last year’s record: 8-18

Key players: SS/3B Drew Adams, Sr. (.427, 28 RBIs); OF/RHP Greg Edwards, Sr.; OF/RHP Desmon Gardner, Sr.; OF Justin Jackson, Sr. (.324, 15 runs, 7SB).

2010 Outlook: With seven starters returning including a corp group of seniors that includes East Hall’s leadings hitters in Adams and Jackson, the Vikings are destined to improve upon last season’s record. Missing from this season’s lineup, which could prove to be a weakness for the Vikings, is a proven ace. Cody Davidson (38 Ks), who the Vikings lost to graduation, was not only the team captain, but was chosed to represent the North in the All-Star game and will be a necessary void to fill for East Hall.

Flowery Branch Falcons

Coach: Jimmy Lawler

Last year’s record: 20-7

Key players: OF Brad Stone, Sr. (.395, 11 SB); P James Mills, Sr. (3.48 ERA)

2010 Outlook: With six starters returning, the Falcons have a chance to repeat last season’s success and state tournament bid based solely on experience. With only one of the returning starters being a pitcher, however, Flowery Branch’s main objective will be to find someone to bolster a staff that lost Matt Pilgrim (7-2, 2.94 ERA) and retained only Mills.

Gainesville Red Elephants

Coach: Jeremy Kemp

Last year’s record: 15-10

Key players: SS K.J. McAllister, Sr. (.449 avg., 11 2Bs, 6 HRs); C Sloan Strickland, Sr. (.461 avg., .855 slg., 5 HRs); IF Will Maddox, Jr. (.420 avg., .535 OBP., 18 SBs); OF Anderson Loggins, Sr. (.353 avg., 18 BBs, 18 RBIs).

2010 Outlook: The Red Elephants will be strong up the middle with Strickland, McAllister, Maddox and Loggins, who bring a wealth of talent and experience to the field. That might be needed, as Gainesville will be relying on a young pitching staff that boasts three sophomores (Stephen Mason, David Gonzalez and Ryan Griffith) and a freshman in Hunter Anglin.

Habersham Central Raiders

Coach: Chris Akridge

Last year’s record: 7-18

Key players: P/1B Dylan Charles, Sr.; P Chance Armour, Sr.; 1B/DH Ray Dean, Sr.

2010 Outlook: After four years as a Raiders assistant, Akridge has a clear goal in mind for his first season at the helm of Habersham Central.

“The last three years we’ve been right at or below .500,” Akridge said. “We haven’t had a winning record since 2006, so that’s a goal for us.”

The team has just four returning starters, but Akridge sees potential in the pitching staff, starting with Charles and Armour, both southpaws.

Dean was an All-Region 8-AAAA selection last season and is expected to lead the Raiders offensively. Juniors Clayton Oliver and Tyler Stinespring saw action as sophomores a year ago, and Akridge said both “have matured a lot at the plate.”

Jackson County Panthers

Coach: Tommy Fountain

Last year’s record: 8-15

Key players: SS/P Rob Williams, Sr. (.377 avg., .524 OBP, 24 RBIs); SS/P Austin Robinson, So. (.303 avg., 21 RBIs, .478 OBP); 1B Zach Sticher, Sr. (.333 avg., 6 2Bs, 15 RBIs); P/3B Ken Miller, Sr. (1.40 ERA, 10 RBIs).

2010 Outlook: The Panthers enter the 2010 season with a wealth of experience, as eight of its starters are back, including the entire pitching staff. Fountain hopes that the six freshmen and sophomores that started last season will be improved and ready to contribute at a higher rate this season. Those players, plus a nine-man pitching staff, including five players who only pitch, has Fountain convinced that this is the most talented team he’s had in his three years at Jackson County.

Jefferson Dragons

Coach: Tommy Knight

Last year’s record: 22-6

Key players: P/C/1B Jake Fields, Sr. (.529 avg., 10 HR, 33 RBI); P/2B Jamie Sexton, Sr. (.453 avg., 9 HR, 29 RBI); SS Lucas Redd, Sr. (.348 avg., 2 HR, 23 RBI); OF Jason Demos, Jr. (.345 avg., 21 RBIs); 3B Kyle Hardy, Sr. (.309 avg., 18 RBIs).

2010 Outlook: Jefferson has a veteran team with 11 seniors on board this season, all of whom played a big part in last season’s trip to the second round of the state playoffs in Class AA. The only real question is pitching, following the graduation of Chris Beck and Chris Swancey from last season. Fields and Sexton (4-0, 1.84 ERA last season) will be counted on heavily for the Dragons in the pitching department this season. “Our pitching is fairly untested right now.” Knight said.

Johnson Knights

Coach: Tony Wilson

Last year’s record: 7-19

Key players: SS Logan Pethel, Jr. (.328 avg., 17 RBIs); 3B Trae Wilson, So. (.325 avg., 16 RBIs); OF/P Blake Stacey, Sr. (.290 avg., 10 RBIs); OF Chris White, So. (.280 avg., 9 RBIs).

2010 Outlook: Wilson feels optimistic about his program that returns seven starters from last season and was competitive during the summer league. Ryan Farmer has moved into Johnson’s program from North Georgia Christian, and Win Griffith and A.J. Benefield look to sure up the rest of the Knights’ lineup. “I feel like if we can get consistent pitching that we’ll stay in the game,” Wilson said. “I feel like we’ll be able to swing the bats pretty good.”

Lakeview Academy Lions

Coach: Deuce Roark

Last year’s record: 26-3

Key players: P Ralston Cash, Sr. (9-0, 0.97 ERA, .466, 48 RBIs); 1B Ross Biegler, Sr. (.463); OF Tyler Young, Sr.; 2B Dalton Munday, Sr.

2010 Outlook: A 26-3 record and berth in the second round of the state playoffs might seem to be hard to build on, but with Cash (83 strikeouts in 2009) as your ace, anything is possible for the 2010 Lions. The Lions lost speed, hitting and a second go-to guy on the mound with the graduations of Haughton Carswell (15 SB), catcher Brett Armour (.455, 55 RBIs) and Tyler Ward (7-1, 43 Ks) and those three things are hard to replace. Luckily for Lakeview, its offense won’t want for much with the return of not only Cash (.463, 21 RBIs), but Biegler (.587 OBP). If the Lions find a second pitcher who can match what Ward did last year, they could be well on their way to another successful season.

Lumpkin County Indians

Coach: Dustin Allen

Last year’s record: 20-8

Key players: 1B Jonathan Whitehead, Jr.; 3B Will Anderson, So. (.500 43 RS); OF Chad Fulton, Sr. (.402, 36 SB).

2010 Outlook: The team’s ace, Drew Uptegraph (3.77 ERA, 56 K’s) is gone, but returning are the team’s two offensive leaders in Anderson (34 SB) and Fulton (47 runs). Speed is a definite advantage as both Anderson and Fulton had more than 30 stolen bases, but pitching experience will be a weakness for an Indians team looking to build on the program’s most successful season in recent years.

North Hall Trojans

Coach: Trent Mongero

Last year’s record: 16-10

Key players: OF Jackson Coker, Sr. (.357 avg., 9 doubles, 17 RBIs); SS Ryan Pitts, So. (.304 avg., 13 RBIs); P/1B Chris Stevens, Jr. (.297 avg., 17 RBIs, 21 runs); P/1B Jacob Brewster (.333 avg.).

2010 Outlook: The Trojans should be strong on the mound with Nathan Hewell, Brewster and Stevens back to pitch this season. Mongero feels like the team has a very strong team chemistry and leadership this season. North Hall also plays a challenging early schedule with Class AAAAA’s North Forsyth, Class AAAA Forsyth Central, along with Buford and Lakeview Academy before starting the Region 7-AAA schedule.

Last season, the Trojans set nine new offensive records, including hits (269), runs (226), RBIs (181), and walks (153).

Riverside Military Eagles

Coach: Shay Bailey

Last year’s record: N/A

Key players: OF/P Brian Kerekes, Sr.; SS Michael Crespo, Jr.; P Seth Settlemeyer, Sr.; OF John Walker, Sr.; C, Brian Cox, Sr.

2010 Outlook: The story for Riverside’s baseball program will be the same as any other season: To get a group of kids — many of whom have never played together — on the same page quickly. The Eagles also have a new coach in Bailey this season, who played in college at Vanderbilt University, and has assistant coaching experience at White County High, Chestatee High, and Georgia Perimeter College.

“Our main concern is team chemistry,” Bailey said. “We have to bring our team together as a group.”

Pitching will also be a focal point with Settlemeyer as the only player on the roster that will only be used on the mound. Crespo, the team’s new starting shortstop, is new to the program as a first-year cadet from Miami.

Kerekes and Cox are both proven returning starters for the Eagles and will be depended on heavily.

Union County Panthers

Coach: C.T. Hussion

Last year’s record: 10-10

Key players: 1B/P Brady McCarter, Sr.; SS/P Blake Gowder, Sr.; C/P Dalton Everett, Jr.; 3B/P Chaiz George, Sr.

2010 Outlook: It’s been a long time since the Panthers’ last playoff game, as this spring marks 15 years since Union County advanced to the Class A state finals before falling to Pace Academy.

With a bevy of capable arms, the 2010 Panthers may have a team that can at least snap the postseason drought, if not more. In McCarter, Gowder and George, Union County has three hurlers who have earned All-Region distinction in the last two years, not to metion Everett, who splits his time between catcher and pitcher. George, who earned postseason honors in 2008, missed last season due to injury.

The Panthers return seven starters total, and they’ll need that experience to avoid another late-season slide like the one that kept them out of last year’s playoffs.

West Hall Spartans

Coach: Pete Allen

Last year’s record: 8-18

Key players: P/OF Max Everitt, Sr. (.325 avg., 9 2Bs, 17 RBIs); IF Chad Goff, Sr. (.329 avg., 7 2Bs, 14 RBIs); OF Brandon Grindle, Sr. (.351 avg.); P/OF Jake Shirley, So. (.311 avg.)

2010 Outlook: Entering his first year at the helm of the Spartans, Allen is aware that this season is a rebuilding year. The new coach is installing a new system, which he says “will take some time to get used to,” but that process might go quicker thanks to the top three hitters and top pitcher returning from last season.

White County Warriors

Coach: John Brown

Last year’s record: 15-11

Key players: P David Sosebee, So. (6-1, 1.83 ERA, 62 Ks; 19 RBIs, 3 HRs); SS Hayden Cummings, Jr. (.371, 7 2B); C/1B Adam Hooper, Jr. (.293, 2 HR, 17 RBIs)

2010 Outlook: A strong pitching staff will combat a lack of experience, as the Warriors welcome back four players with varsity pitching experience. That staff is led by Sosebee, who recorded six wins as a freshman last year. Sosebee is also one of the key guys on offense for White County, which has only two returning seniors in outfielders Jackson Ingram and Cody Ansley.

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