Coach: Dean Goodwin
Last year's record: 12-13, 9-9 Region 8-AA
Key players: C/P Brent Ruark, Sr.; P Taylor Foster, Sr.; 1B Zach Lee, Jr.
2012 Outlook: The Leopards, who lost just three seniors off of last season's team, will have a solid core returning, including five seniors who will either start or see a lot of playing time, said Goodwin, in his second year leading the program.
He added that the key to this season will be the starting pitching rotation, of which Banks County has five potential starters. Since the region schedule will be divided into a three-game series against each team each week, Goodwin knows that having at least three solid pitchers for each series could be the difference between once again finishing fourth in the North subregion, or finishing third and playing in the region tournament.
Coach: Tony Wolfe
Last year's record: 31-4, 15-1 Region 6-AA
Key players: P/OF Sam Clay, Sr. (7-2, 2.03 ERA, 77 Ks); P/1B Troy Herterick, Sr. (.454, 6 HRs, 37 RBIs); 3B Clay Gant, Sr. (.250, 4 RBIs); 3B/1B Brian Malone, Sr. (.389, 1 HR, 9 RBIs).
2012 outlook: The Wolves must replace almost the entire field from the squad that won the Class AA state championship a year ago. The team graduated nine seniors, including its top two pitchers, and it's top home-run threat moved to Texas.
The team will still be an experienced bunch, as it will be led by eight seniors. Four freshmen and one sophomore will also be included on the roster.
In the region, Blessed Trinity and Lovett will be major threats as they appear to be among the best in the state. Buford will battle with those two, along with Greater Atlanta Christian and Westminster for the top four in the region.
Coach: Wes Gentry
Last year's record: 6-20, 6-18 Region 8-AAA
Key players: IF Lucas Bennett, Sr. (.320, 20 RBIs); P Zack Sweet, Sr.; P/1B Mike Pinson, Sr.; UT Dillon Brewster, Sr.
2012 outlook: The War Eagles, who finished .500 in 2010, enter 2012 looking for a bounceback season after finishing near the bottom of the standings last year.
They'll try to improve on that with a strong crop of seniors and five returning starters. Bennett enters the year as the War Eagles' most dependable bat, while Sweet, Pinson and sophomore Jordan London have experience on the mound.
Chestatee will also look for contributions from senior outfielder Taylor Albarado and senior pitcher/outfielder Kenny Herock.
The War Eagles have a hole to fill left by the graduation of Scott Chewning. The former middle infielder led the team in batting average and set school single-season and career records for stolen bases last season.
Coach: Steve Cotrell
Last year's record: 20-8, 15-5 Region 8-A
Key players: P Colton Davis, Sr. (50 IP, 99 Ks, .420 avg., 10 HRs), 3B Cody Streetmon, Sr. (.407 avg, 8 HRs, .998 fielding percentage), C Josh Swistak, Sr. (.504 avg, 10 HRs, 38 RBIs), P Robert Hayes (2.78 ERA, 6-0), SS Keenan Lord, Soph. (.448 avg.), CF Drew Whitfield, Soph. (.250 avg.).
2012 Outlook: Team will have six seniors in the talented starting lineup but not a lot of depth, Cotrell said, which means health of players is key to a successful season. The coach added that the key to the rotation will be Sam Lewis, who Cotrell said has the ability to be one of the top pitchers in the region if he can slide into the No. 3 spot. Cotrell said the goal, as always, is to win the region, which won't be easy with defending state champs Hebron Christian returning most of last year's team. Team has been to state in each of Cotrell's first three seasons, but has never won a first-round series.
Coach: Jimmy Pruett
Last year's record: 11-11, 7-10 Region 8-AA
Key players: OF/P Tyler Thurmond, Sr.; OF/P Logan Burt, So.; C Colton Chester, So.; P Jeffery Partington, Jr.
2012 Outlook: Pruett feels confident that his team will stay competitive with the bulk of the Tigers' pitching staff back this season. He'll also have junior Trevor Pierce to give some depth to the rotation. Having a number of throwing arms to rely on will be beneficial with a young infield.
The middle infield will be manned by freshman Levi Whitmire at shortstop and sophomore Harley Pruitt at second base. The Tigers open the season with a junior varsity/varsity doubleheader against Lumpkin County on Saturday in Dahlonega.
Coach: Wesley Crow
Last year's record: 0-25, 0-19 Region 8-AA
Key players: INF/P Jonathan Woodring, Sr. (.351 avg.); C Austin Tompkins (.323 avg.); 1B C.J. White, Sr. (.275 avg.), P Joseph Matt, Sr. (31 2/3 IP); Dusty Ryals, Sr. (.259 avg.), P Hunter Buffington, So. (33 1/3 IP).
2012 Outlook: The Vikings, which lost only two players from last year's team, are looking to rebound, said Crow, in his fourth season at the helm. The team returns the entire pitching staff and eight of nine starters. East Hall last made a playoff appearance in 2003.
Coach: Scott Myers
Last year's record: 17-8, 10-5 Region 8-AAAA\
Key players: IF Logan Conley, Sr. (.434 avg, 22 RBI); OF Brody Thomas, Sr. (.432, 21 RBIs, 22 SB); 1B Breck Davidson, Sr. (.340 avg, 26 RBIs); OF Chase Hulsey, Jr. (1.52 ERA; .395); P/IF Andrew Laur, Sr. (2.10 ERA).
2012 outlook: After a successful 2011 campaign, the Falcons graduated just two seniors. A talented group of returning starters will lead the team, but Myers said his team can't rely on that.
Myers expects his team to compete with Winder-Barrow and Loganville for the region title and, with steady improvement, make a run in the postseason.
One thing Myers hopes is team will improve on is its defense. If it can improve there, he said, it can find success in 2012.
Coach: Jeremy Kemp
Last year's record: 24-7, 20-4 Region 8-AAA
Key players: P Hunter Anglin, Jr. (8-2, 2.83 ERA, 51 Ks; .333, 6 HRs, 24 RBIs); C Skyler Weber, Jr. (.443, 8 HRs, 51 RBIs); P/1B David Gonzalez, Sr. (.369, 8 HRs, 29 RBIs); OF/P Michael Gettys, So. (.371, 3 HRs, 26 RBIs).
2012 outlook: The Red Elephants return a number of key players from a loaded 2011 team that was among the best in the region. Anglin, who has started for Gainesville since his freshman season, will lead a number of talented pitchers, including Gonzalez and senior Stephen Mason.
Weber, the team's most potent hitter, will lead an offense that averaged 10 runs per game in 2011.
Perhaps the biggest loss for the Red Elephants was Will Maddox, now playing at the University of Tennessee. The team will have to replace his production (7 HRs and 39 RBIs) to maintain its offensive output from a year ago.
Coach: Chris Akridge
Last year's record: 11-14, fourth in 8A-AAAA
Key players: 2B Jake Brewer, Sr. (.439 avg., .516 OBP, .622 SLG); 1B/P Ryan Smith, Jr. (2.48 ERA); SS/P Alex Smith, Jr.; C John Henry Dean, Sr.
2012 outlook: The Raiders, who are seeking their first playoff appearance since 2006, will field a young team this season, and what they lack in experience, Akridge said will need to be compensated for by strong senior leadership.
That starts with Brewer, last year's leading hitter and a first-team All-Region selection. He is one of only three returning starters, and Ryan Smith is one of only two pitchers with varsity experience on the mound.
Nonetheless, Akridge said he's excited to see what this year's team can do. High on the agenda will be finding a steady replacement for departed ace Drew Stephens, now a freshman hurler for Piedmont.
Coach: Tommy Fountain
Last year's record: 11-14, 11-11 Region 8-AA
Key players: C Trey Sorrells, Sr. (.316 avg., 26 RBIs, threw out 16 of 22 base runners); MIF/P Austin Robinson, Sr. (2.96 ERA, .329 avg.), P/OF Jalen Banks, Sr. (.275 avg., 5.25 ERA, 2-3), P Hunter Poole, Sr.; P Kolin Zimmer, Sr. (4.14 ERA, 1-0), 3B Andy Williams, Sr. (.361 avg., .901 fielding percentage), OF/P Quinn Grogan, Sr. (.321 avg., 2.25 ERA), UT Jesse Talent, Sr.
2012 Outlook: Panthers boast 11 seniors, including a pair of transfers from East Hall and Jefferson, and have increased win total each season. The team has a deep pitching staff, but no established No. 1, said Fountain, who is in his fifth season at the helm.
The coach said Banks and Zimmer both have stuff to be dominant, and East Hall transfer Poole can hit 88-89 mph on the gun but is still recovering from a hand injury to his non-throwing arm. Jefferson transfer Tallent has added a third pitch to his arsenal, and should be in competition for a spot in the rotation along with Robinson, who went 7-3 in 2009 but 3-4 last season.
Coach: Tommy Knight
Last year's record: 9-13, 7-12 Region 8-AA
Key players: P Matt Bowen, Sr. (2-5 2.63 ERA); OF Austin Thompson, Sr. (.254, 9 RBIs); P/1B Andrew Bartek, Sr. (.295, 2 HRs); P/IF Drew Carson, Jr. (.438, 13 RBIs; 5-4, 3.14 ERA), P/SS Max Ford, So. (.294, 2 HRs, 17 RBIs; 2-1, 2.91 ERA)
2012 outlook: After rebuilding in 2011, Knight expects his Dragons to be much improved. While they will still be a young team, they will have experience at the top to lead.
The Dragons bring back only three seniors, but Knight said he expects them to contend for the state playoffs by the end of the season.
Despite the youth, the team is not without talent. Ford was named to the All-Region as a freshman a year ago.
Coach: Tony Wilson
Last year's record: 12-14, 9-15 Region 8-AAA
Key players: 1B/RHP A.J. Benefield, Sr. (.472 avg., 6 HR, 38 RBIs); 3B Trae Wilson, Sr. (.445 avg., 10 HR, 37 RBIs); P Win Griffith, Sr.; OF Chris White, Sr.
2012 Outlook: The Knights' offense is centered around Benefield and Wilson, but also includes returning seniors Adam White, Brandon Adams, and sophomores Jordan Green and Jackson Frazer. Wilson also hopes to put Johnson in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 with six returning starters. Griffith has ample experience on the mound for the Knights with three years of varsity experience under his belt. Johnson is playing up in classification early in the season with a home-and-away schedule against Class AAAA's Habersham Central and Cedar Shoals in the first two weeks. The Knights open the Region 8-AAA schedule with a home game against West Hall on March 7.
Coach: Deuce Roark
Last year's record: 15-11, 10-8 Region 8-A
Key players: P/OF Dallas Deavers, Jr. (.357 avg., 17 RBIs; 5-2 record, 45 Ks); P/OF Derek Fadool, Sr. (.338 avg., 17 RBIs); 1B Ramsey Hill, Jr. (.300 avg., 5 RBIs); OF Jarrett Huge, Jr. (.310 avg., 6 RBIs).
2012 Outlook: The Lions are going to have considerable youth with only one senior on the roster. Lakeview Academy is in the position of having to replace five seniors that started last season and accounted for 67 percent of its offense. The Lions open the season in Region 8-A with a home game against Riverside Military on March 2.
"If we can grow up and mesh as a team, we may have an opportunity to have a good year," Roark said.
Coach: Dustin Allen
Last year's record: 13-13, 11-13 Region 8-AAA
Key players: SS Will Anderson, Sr. (.558 avg., 23 RBIs, 43 hits); 2B/P Cole Walden, Sr. (3-3, 3.47 ERA; .353 avg., 15 RBIs); OF/P Freddie Beamon, Jr. (1-1, 13 IP); C Austin Gooch, Sr. (.261 avg., 18 RBIs).
2012 outlook: The Indians have a wealth of experience back from a team that finished in the middle of the pack in Region 8-AAA last season.
Lumpkin County has five pitchers back that pitched in varsity games last season, which should be a great asset in a top-heavy Region 8-AAA. The Indians' coach says that the defense is in good shape, led by four-year starter Anderson at shortstop. Lumpkin County has five position starters back in 2012. The season starts with a game against Dawson County on Saturday in Dahlonega.
Coach: Trent Mongero
Last year's record: 23-7, 21-4 Region 8-AAA
Key players: SS Jesse Strickland, Sr.; P/OF Preston Graham, Jr.; P/INF Andrew Smith, So.; C Eli Gilmer, Sr.; P/INF Griffin Olson, Jr.; P/OF Adam Kelly, Jr.; P/OF Wade Phillips, Sr.
2012 outlook: After the best finish in school history a year ago (a trip to the Sweet 16 and 13 broken school records), North Hall will have to replace five seniors, including three that are playing in college this year.
Mongero said the team lost its No. 1 pitcher from a year ago, and pitchers this year will have to grow up quickly to replace the production.
Three returning players on the team are also key members to the Trojans basketball team, and, given the basketball team's success thus far, could leave Mongero shorthanded for awhile.
Also, a tough non-region schedule should help to prepare the Trojans for their region slate.
Coach: Mike Hutch
Last year's record: 4-22, 4-16 Region 8-A
Key players: RHP Jacob Harrison, Sr.; 3B Alec Ruppenthal, Sr.; C Blake Barrom, Sr.; OF Stephen Wechsler, Soph.; OF Orlando Lynch, Sr.; INF/RHP Max Weiner, Jr.; RHP Christian Phares, Sr.
2012 Outlook: Mike Hutch, last season's Region 8-A Coach of the Year while at Athens Christian, takes over a senior-led team. Hutch, who has a career record of 133-97 at the high school level, said that pitching could be the biggest strength with six pitchers on the staff, including No. 1 Harrison and No. 2 Phares, both of who throw in the 80 mile per hour range.
The coach said that the defense should be improved from last year as well, and the Eagles should be able to make a run at the playoffs.
Coach: C.T. Hussion
Last year's record: 13-10, 9-8 Region 8-AA
Key players: SS Zach Odom, Jr. (.413 avg., 5 HR, .762 slugging); 2B Philip Stubblefield, Sr.; P/RF Daniel Coyne, Sr. (.365 avg., 4 HR)
2012 outlook: The Panthers fell short of a second consecutive playoff berth last year when they lost in back-to-back games against North Oconee in the region tournament.
Both games, as well as the regular-season finale, ended in shutouts for Union County. Nonetheless, Hussion likes his teams potential at the plate. Odom, a two-time All-Region selection, and Stubblefield, an All-Subregion choice last year are two big reasons why.
Hussion also expects good production out of power-hitting sophomore third baseman Luther Jones and junior outfielder T Bentley.
The Panther will need to some new faces to step up, as 10 seniors from last year's team have moved on.
Coach: Pete Allen
Last year's record: 7-19, 5-19 Region 8-AAA
Key players: CF Jake Shirley, Sr. (.476 avg.); 2B Cody Simpson, Sr. (.371 avg.); 3B/OF TJ Williams, Sr. (.358 avg.); P/1B Turk Taylor, Sr. (.328 avg.; 38 innings pitched)
2012 outlook: The Spartans haven't had a winning season since 2007, but hope to take a step forward in the process this year with six starters returning.
A number of players with pitching experience, including Taylor and Austin Haynes, are back, but Allen is looking for an ace to step up. Chandler Newton, one of the team's leading pitchers last season, is now at Flowery Branch.
Offense should be a strength for the Spartans, who set a team record for batting average last season. Shirley is at the forefront after breaking the single-season batting average mark and striking out only twice as a junior. In addition, Simpson, Williams, Taylor, Chase Jarrard and Zach English each hit over .300 last year.
Coach: John Brown
Last year's record: 24-6, 20-4 Region 8-AAA
Key players: P Justin Hester, Sr. (3-0, 3.96 ERA, 15 Ks); P Spencer Adams, So. (3-0, 3.44 ERA); P/SS Dylan Lee, Sr.; OF Montana Saine, Sr.
2012 Outlook: The Warriors will have to almost completely rebuild after last year's region championship and trip to the second round of the playoffs. Gone are right-handed pitchers and University of Georgia signees David Sosebee and Luke Crumley, who combined for 15 of the team's wins and drove in 63 runs last season. Brown is entering his sixth season at White County, and has a combined career record of 740-323-3 (mostly achieved in Florida). "We're very young in experience this year and it will be very hard to repeat last year," Brown said. "If this team works hard, I think they may be able to compete in the region."