Baseball Season Previews
It’s finally time for some spring sports (though the weather may say otherwise). With baseball season upon us, we got in touch with local coaches to determine the outlook of their teams heading into the 2022 season! Check out each program below (alphabetical order).
2021 Record: 20-11; Region Runner-Up; 2A State Rnd 1; #2 State Ranking
Head Coach: Derrick Davis
Key Departures: Ty Burchett, Jonatahon Moon
Key Players Returning: Tripp Williams, Bowen Roberts, Cade Herrin
Strengths: Winning tradition; experience
Expectations: A state playoff spot is almost certain in a 5-team region in which Banks County typically fares very well. That’s one goal. Being in the mix for the region title is another. First year head coach Derrick Davis will look to keep the Leopards in the discussion for being a serious contender in the state playoffs. Chipola commit Tripp Williams will be key to the team’s success.
2021 Record: 24-12; Region Champions; 1A State Elite 8; #5 State Ranking
Head Coach: Steve Cottrell
Key Departures: Kane Goldman, Gray Holbrook; 8 total seniors
Key Players Returning: Hampton Hutto, Coleson Smith, Caden Lord, Alex Rainey, Nate Rainey, Kade Morgan along with newcomers Coy Argo, Ryan Cooper.
“It will be important for some of our younger guys moving up to varsity to play key roles this spring,” says coach Cottrell. “Those include JP Allen, Hudson Thomason, Cohen Thomason, Braxton Morris, Mason Anderson, and Beau Neisler.”
Strengths: “We think we will be more athletic and more versatile across the board and deeper on the mound with some of the newcomers,” says Cottrell. “The group we had last year showed up every day to work and that is what separated us from others, so time will tell if this group will do the same.”
Expectations: “First thing is hopefully we can get everyone out healthy and ready to go by region and our number one goal is to pick up where we left off by winning the region,” states Cottrell. “Once you get to that point, we hope we are hitting our stride and see how far we can run with it.”
2021 Record: 12-15; Region 5th
Head Coach: Dwayne Sapp
Key Departures: Carter Turkett , Kincade Weaver
Key Players Returning: Nick Mullinax, Brandon Cramer, Colton Rucker, Andrew Burt, Luke Mulberry, Sawyer Bearden, Julian Horner, Jacob Poss, Rylie Moore, Davis Glass
Strengths: “Depth in the pitching department, and experience throughout the lineup,” says Sapp.
Expectations: “State playoffs,” states Sapp.
2021 Record: 11-21; Region 4th; 6A State Playoffs Rnd 1
Head Coach: Chris Akridge
Key Departures: Austin Jones, Logan Hare, Sutton Dover. “We graduated 70% of our innings on the mound last year led by Jones, Hare and Dover who are now playing at the collegiate level,” says Akridge.
Key Players Returning: Azzi Cervantes, Logan Bogue, Hunter Tatum, Cooper Shirley
Strengths: “As a result of injuries, we had a lot of young guys get valuable experience late last season,” says Akridge. “I look for that experience to be big for us going into this season.”
Expectations: “I look for our guys to compete each day and show a lot of growth throughout the course of the season,” adds Akridge. “I believe our ability to build pitching depth will be a big determining factor in whether or not we accomplish our goals for this season.”
2021 Record: 23-10; Region Runner-Up; 4A State Sweet 16; #4 State Ranking
Head Coach: Tommy Knight
Key Departures: Mason Cooper, Rem Maxwell, JJ Rapp
Key Players Returning: Jase Peoples, Bowman Horn, Spencer Neese, Brennan Carter, Roger Hulsey, Matthew Perrin, Brice Glausier, Bradlee Kinney, Clay Fulcher, JoJo Martin, Austin Redmon, Chase Howell
Strengths: Winning tradition and culture; coaching; 5 players with All-Region or better type of talent
Expectations: There are 5 guys on this team that should be All-Region, and a couple/few that might end up All-State type of players. However, there are only 3 returning starters on a team that is used to winning 20-plus, being in the mix for a region title, being state-ranked, and making playoff runs. This team should be no different under the guidance of Tommy Knight!
2021 Record: 7-21; Region 6th
Head Coach: Jonathan Gastley
Key Departures: Caleb Childs; “3 Seniors in 2021 brought lots of youth, however, losing Caleb Childs offense is definitely a hole to fill in the middle of the order,” says Gastley.
Key Players Returning: Harper Davenport, Alejandro Narvaez, Cooper Scott, Brady Rice, Gannon Flakes, Scooter Ligon, Will Mincey, Hunter Cooper
Strengths: “Although still young, all of these individuals got significant experience playing in the top AAA region,” states Gastley.
Expectations: To compete in 7-AAA for a playoff spot. This team has the experience and athleticism to do so.
2021 Record: 13-13; Region 4th; 2A State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Wes Satterfield
Key Departures: Brady Wilson, Brody Jarrard, Linkin Wright
Key Players Returning: Grayson Carver, transfer Baxley O’Brien, Keilin Sanders, Grant Britton, Cooper Welch, Cory Keller
Strengths: It’s got to be offense. Carver, Sanders, Britton, Welch, and Keller combined for 72 RBI last season, not accounting for O’Brien’s big bat he brings to the lineup.
Expectations: This is a playoff team. The expectation is to put up a LOT of runs and find a way to be in the discussion for a region title or at worst host a playoff series.
2021 Record: 11-17; Region 4th; 3A State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Greg McCall
Key Departures: Mason Roberts, Jacob Grafton, Isaac McCollum, Hank Arrowood, Seth Jameson, William Rudeseal, Ian Rumsey, Carson Boyd
Key Players Returning: Cruz Mullinix, Carson Worley, Ayden Garmon, Ben Stowe, Craig Thurmond
Strengths: “Team strength will be returning position experience with all of the starting pitching staff returning/ LHP Mullinix/RHP Garmon/ RHP Patrick Murray/ RHP Nick Randall,” says McCall. “Senior leadership will be strong Mullinix/Garmon/Jacob Pruitt/ Garrett Burgess/Seth McCollum and Worley”
Expectations: “Try to take one play/ one inning / one game at a time and build team chemistry working toward a very strong region schedule that includes Franklin/Oconee/ Hart/Monroe Area and East Jackson,” says McCall.
2021 Record: 13-14; Region 4th; 1A State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Justin Pollock
Key Departures: Chathan Clouatre, Trent Thomas
Key Players Returning: Aubrey Higgins, Joel Miller, Frankey Moree, transfer Norman Bastian, Drew Bates
Strengths: “Experience and leadership; we have 11 seniors who all have varsity experience that we are going to lean on this season,” says Pollock. “Also pitching depth. Last year we had 4 pitchers who threw 90% of our innings, this year we feel like we have 9 or 10 guys who can contribute for us on the mound.”
Expectations: “Our goal is to build on the foundation we laid last season and continue to take our program to new heights,” states Pollock. “Making the playoffs in 2021 was exciting but this year our expectation is to host and win series in the playoffs.”
2021 Record: 8-16; Region 5th
Head Coach: Shannon Floyd
Key Departures: Aidan Berrong
Key Players Returning: Connor Chastain, Seth Gillis, Brack Burrell, Colton Garrett, Drew Sofield
Strengths: Experience. There were only 2 seniors on last year’s team, so a great number of experienced players return.
Expectations: To make strides and be closer to a .500 team or better this season. That would entail being a team that can compete for a playoff spot if all goes right.
2021 Record: 12-19; Region 3rd; 2A State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Zach Odom
Key Departures: Zeke Swartz, Isaak Mullinack, Hunter Loyd. “We lost 2 of our arms and middle of the lineup guys in Swartz, Mullinack and Loyd,” says Odom. “Those will be tough shoes to fill.”
Key Players Returning: Lake Hughes, Thomas Dyer, Conner Shields
Strengths: “We will have a lot of depth in our pitching staff, with seniors Hughes and Dyer leading the way,” states Odom. “We have 9 seniors this year and we will be able to lean on them in all aspects of the game.”
Expectations: “With 9 seniors leading the way, I look for us to make a push this year against two tough teams in Elbert and Banks for the region championship,” says Odom.
2021 Record: 20-12; Region 3rd; 3A State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Jim Waits
Key Departures: J Ben Haynes, Evan Chambers, Rylee Higgins, Caleb Reddy, Blake Kelley, Caleb Gee
Key Players Returning: Jake Johnson, Nate Bray, Dylan Sargent, Kyler Mayo, Mark Daniels, Ryan Fowler, Mason Gee, Billy Carder, Luke Dockery.
Strengths: “Team speed, and a group that likes to compete,” says Waits.
Expectations: “We expect to have a lot of players playing in different spots every day,” adds Waits. “We have multiple players that pitch and play in other positions when not pitching. Region 7-AAA is ultra-competitive with talented players on every team led by a group of very accomplished coaches. We will rely heavily on our two seniors to lead a group of talented juniors and sophomores to compete in this tough region.”