North Hall’s baseball team is off to a great start to the season, especially when you consider the fact that it is currently playing without two starters. The Trojans (2-0) have rolled to wins against Lumpkin County and Chestatee without much trouble, even though senior starters Griffin Olson and Adam Kelly are still playing with the school’s basketball program.
In basketball, North Hall plays Johnson-Savannah in the Class AAA state semifinals Saturday afternoon in Savannah.
North Hall coach Trent Mongero isn’t in a hurry for those two players to get back with the possibility to still win a state title in basketball, even though they bring a lot to the baseball field. The Trojans aren’t going to open Region 7-AAA play until the week after a potential state championship basketball game would take place.
In the meantime, North Hall is awaiting a challenging week ahead with road games against North Gwinnett on Monday and North Forsyth on Wednesday, both Class AAAAAA programs, then a home game Thursday against Class AAAAA’s Flowery Branch. Mongero said that scheduling such a tough non-region schedule was intentional.
“We want to see the best competition possible and expose any flaws we may have before region play opens,” Mongero said. “It’s important right now not to get hung up on the record.”
So far, Mongero has been pleased with the run production (10 runs in each game) and consistency throwing strikes from the mound. He’s also seen first-year starter Stephen Murray, a junior, playing particularly well behind the plate.
FALCONS ADJUSTING: Flowery Branch has dealt well with the news to start the season that it would play without senior Chase Hulsey, who has a torn labrum that requires season-ending surgery. While the first two games of the season weren’t pretty for the Falcons, with a combined 20 strikeouts at the plate, they still beat Shiloh and West Forsyth, both Class AAAAAA schools.
Falcons coach Scott Myers said their biggest improvement came in the third game of the season Monday with a 15-2 win in five innings against Franklin County. Highlighting the win against the Lions was 12 total hits at the plate and a reduction in the strikeouts, according to Myers.
“Losing Chase for the season was big,” Myers said. “But we have a seasoned group and they’re stepping up.”
Without Hulsey, Myers said that righthander Brad Keller and lefty Blake Turner have picked up the load on the mound. Keltin DeVoe has been a leader defensively for Flowery Branch.
On Saturday, Flowery Branch returns with another game against another Class AAAAAA opponent, Mountain View, in Lawrenceville.
No. 1 vs. No. 2: Gainesville boys soccer coach Rick Howard thinks he got exactly the premier soccer matchup he wanted when scheduling the game against top-ranked McIntosh (5-0) tonight. The second-ranked Red Elephants are currently 4-0-1 with the start of Region 8-AAAAA only four days away against Clarke Central. Meanwhile, McIntosh has won its first five, scoring at least 10 goals four times so far.
Tonight’s game starts at 8 p.m. in Peachtree City.
For Howard, tough games are all part of learning the team’s identity with the move into Class AAAAA in 2013.
“Moving up, we need to know where we are as a team,” Howard said. “We’ve been playing a demanding early-season schedule”.
For Gainesville, junior midfielder Ricardo Gomez, one of two returning starters off its 2012 state finalists, has again been a leader, while goalkeeper Juan Remes has done a solid job. Roman Arriaga has also been consistent on the pitch for the Red Elephants, according to Howard.
Already this season, Gainesville’s picked up quality nonregion wins against Habersham Central and North Oconee. The Red Elephants tied Johnson 1-1 on Feb. 22.
SPARTANS ON A ROLL: The West Hall boys soccer team has certainly turned some heads so far this season. The Spartans blanked 2012 state quarterfinalist Riverside Military 5-0 in the season opener. The following day, West Hall picked up a 7-1 win against White County, with the two clubs playing again tonight in Cleveland.
To make the future look even brighter, first-year Spartans coach Andrew McCain says that their success is largely the making of a young program.
“We have a young team that has played together since middle school,” McCain said. “When I took over the team from (now-retired) coach (Wolfgang) Jager, he told me that this group could be a special team.”
The season started with a promising scoreless exhibition tie for West Hall against Class AAAAA No. 2 Gainesville.
For West Hall, freshman Cesar Villa had the best scoring night with a hat trick in the win against White County.
McCain says that midfielders Alejandro Zamora and Pedro Perez have been strong, along with sophomore stopper Eduardo Magana.
“Our team is off to a good start and starting to jell,” McCain said. “Our team is mostly sophomores, with good technical skills and good with both feet handling the ball.”