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2012 Gwinnett County High School Baseball Previews

Region 7-AAAAA

Collins Hill Eagles

-- Head Coach: Paul Pierce

-- 2011 Record: 10-16, sixth in Region 7-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: C Charlie Padilla, Sr.; RHP Wayne Wages, Sr.; SS John Topoleski, Jr.; 1B Nate Williams, Jr.; UT Jimmy Shea, Sr.

-- Outlook: The Eagles will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 and challenge again for a postseason berth. It won't be easy in the always-tough Region 7-AAAAA, but Pierce is hopeful a small, but solid group of returners can set the tone.

Duluth Wildcats

-- Head Coach: Matt Champitto

-- 2011 Record: 20-12, second in Region 7-AAAAA, second in Class AAAAA state playoffs

-- Returning Starters: LHP/OF Zack Erwin, Sr. (7-4, 2.98 ERA, 68 K, 65 IP); RHP Chris Rich, Sr. (5-3, 1 save, 2.20 ERA, 53 K, 54 IP); C/RHP Edward Willemse, Sr. (.253, 2 HR, 21 RBIs); SS Evan Dumas, Sr. (.284, 3 HR, 18 RBIs)

-- Outlook: After making their first postseason appearance in 14 years last season, the Wildcats hope for an encore performance this year. And with righty-lefty combo of Rich and Erwin on the mound, plus some strong glove work in the field, they should have a good shot. Willemse and Dumas also return to bring stability to the batting order, though depth and experience at the plate will have to develop, and the Wildcats will have to stay healthy.

Meadowcreek Mustangs

-- Head Coach: Chris Reeves

-- 2011 Record: 9-12 (non-region schedule)

-- Returning Starters: SS/RHP Chris Custodio, Sr.; 3B/RHP Shea Wilkey, Soph.; C/RHP Jose Ponce, Soph.; 1B Eric Arp, Jr.; OF Chandler McCoy, Sr.; OF Andy Mercado, Sr.; OF Austin Bernard, Sr.; IF Austin Johnson, Soph.

-- Other newcomers: 2B Nazeer Defares, Soph.; C Johnathan Arnold, Fr.; UT Carlton Connell, Sr.

-- Outlook: The Mustangs will once again play a non-region schedule to help build experience and confidence -- two factors that will be necessary with a freshman and four sophomores being depended on to contribute. Despite their youth, Reeves is particularly excited about youngsters like Defares and Arnold, who should make the Mustangs solid up the middle.

Mountain View Bears

-- Head Coach: Jason Johnson

-- 2011 Record: 10-16, seventh in Region 7-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: C Tyler Bethune, Sr.; RHP/1B Garry Gwaltney, Jr.; 2B Peyton Fore, Jr.; SS Brandon Griffin, Sr.; 3B Ben Utley, Soph.; RHP/RF Beau Blair, Jr.; CF Alex Dedels, Jr.; RHP/SS Joey Bell, Jr.; RHP A.J. Moore, Soph.; LHP Kyle Mitchell, Sr.

-- Outlook: The Bears raised a few eyebrows in their first season in Class AAAAA last year, and hope to raise a few more this season with 10 returning players, including five pitchers who saw action last year. The return of Bethune, Gwaltney and Utley should also give them a solid trio to build their batting order around.

Mill Creek Hawks

-- Head Coach: Doug Jones

-- 2011 Record: 25-8, Region 7-AAAAA champions, Class AAAAA quarterfinals

-- Returning Starters: 3B Tim Hernandez, Sr.; DH/C Nick Tillman, Sr.; RHP Cody Pugh, Jr.

-- Outlook: The Hawks were decimated by graduation, with seven position starters and several key arms lost from last year's team that was a run away from the state semifinals. However, Jones has a strong young talent pool to work with and always seems to get the most out of his players. And with experience and leadership from the likes of Hernandez, Tillman and Pugh, don't be surprised to see Mill Creek in contention in the region race again.

Norcross Blue Devils

-- Head Coach: Jonathan Wyman

-- 2011 Record: 13-13, fifth in Region 7-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: OF/LHP Tanner Maloof, Sr. (.481, 15 RBIs); SS/RHP Chris Raasch, Sr. (5-6, 1 save, 3.34 ERA, 46 K, 56 IP); 1B/RHP Kevin Cosola, Sr. (2-2, 2.13 ERA, 15 K, 23 IP); 2B Zach Shirah, Jr.; 3B/RHP Joseph Wilber, Jr. (3-4, 1 save, 2.91 ERA, 44 K, 55 IP)

-- Outlook: A loss on the final day of the season last year kept the Blue Devils from the state playoffs, but they seem well-positioned to get over that hump this spring. Vandy-bound Raasch and junior Wilber make up a formidable 1-2 punch on the mound, with Cosola and Maloof adding depth. Maloof is also a strong spark plug at the top of the lineup after posting a .523 on-base percentage last year, but the bats behind him will need to step up and produce more runs.

North Gwinnett Bulldogs

-- Head Coach: Frank Vashaw

-- 2011 record: 17-15, third in Region 7-AAAAA, second round, Class AAAAA state playoffs

-- Returning Starters: OF Alex Kimble, Sr. (.385, 14 RBIs); OF Cole Willoughby, Sr. (.289, 2 HR, 23 RBIs, 12 2B); SS Ryan Hagan, Sr. (.301, 3 HR, 17 RBIs); RHP Jordan Brown (5-4, 3.43 ERA, 63 IP)

-- Other key returners: C Noah Ford, Sr.; OF Cody Short, Jr.

-- Outlook: The Bulldogs lost several key players from last year's team that advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. Then again, they were in a similar position a year ago and found players to step up, including Kimble, Willoughby and Hagan, all of whom return to serve as building blocks for the batting order. The real need for newcomers to step up will be on the mound, especially early as Brown -- the only returning member of last year's starting rotation -- could be delayed in getting started depending on how far the North basketball team advances in the state tournament.

Peachtree Ridge Lions

-- Head Coach: Ryan Hanik

-- 2011 Record: 14-15, fourth in Region 7-AAAAA, first round Class AAAAA state playoffs

-- Returning Starters: 3B Billy Best, Sr.; 2B Tripp Miller, Sr.; CF Steven Bowman, Sr.; RHP Coltan Ramsey, Sr.; RHP Donald Frew, Sr.; LF Cooper Burdick, Jr.; SS Tyler Haswell, Jr.

-- Other key returners: C Tyler Chaney, Jr.; C Anthony Perez, Jr.

-- Outlook: The Lions took a major step forward last year by earning a state playoff berth on the last day of the regular season, and then pushing powerful Lassiter to three games before falling in the opening round. And despite the loss of All-County pitcher/first baseman Jared Walsh to graduation, most of the starting lineup returns intact, including seniors Best, Miller and Bowman. While there are still question marks on the mound, Ramsey and Frew both have experience, and Hanik is optimistic about the potential of the staff's depth.

Region 8-AAAAA

Archer Tigers

-- Head Coach: Chris Hays

-- 2011 Record: 3-22, tied for eighth in Region 8-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: 1B Curtis Graves, Sr.; OF James Burgess, Sr.; P Aaron Moorhead, Sr.; P/OF Tanner Strickland, Jr.; OF Deondre Singleton, Jr.; OF Brett Self, Jr.; RHP/IF Hayden Pendergraft, Jr.; RHP/IF Alexander Martin, Jr.; IF Dillon Malcom, Jr.; IF/OF Brendan Fowler, Jr.; IF Justin Bennett, Jr.

-- Outlook: The Tigers struggled in their first season of Class AAAAA ball a year ago, so the goal this year is to use that experience to make a positive step up in the standings this year.

Berkmar Patriots

-- Head Coach: Will Azbell

-- 2011 Record: 4-21, tied eighth in Region 8-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: 1B/RHP Dreyvis Perez, Sr.; CF/RHP E.J. Wyns, Sr.; C Miguel Idrach, Sr.

-- Outlook: A tough season a year ago, compounded by a very young squad that returns just three starters this year, might not seem a pleasant prospect. But Azbell is optimistic the Patriots can improve on last year's record, and that the young nucleus of players coming through the program can build an even better future.

Brookwood Broncos

-- Head Coach: Rick Howard

-- 2011 Record: 24-10-1, second in Region 8-AAAAA, Class AAAAA state quarterfinals

-- Returning Starters: RHP/SS Lucas Sims, Sr.; RHP Allen Tokarz, Sr.; 3B Michael Gouge, Sr.; C Clint Carr, Sr.

-- Other key returners: LHP Ryan Woodard, Sr.

-- Outlook: While the Broncos lost quite a few players to graduation, some of the more key pieces to last year's state quarterfinalist puzzle return, including Super Six shortstop/pitcher and Clemson signee Sims. But he and fellow seniors like Tokarz, Gouge and Carr will have to provide leadership from the outset for a team that will face a brutal non-region schedule that includes a trip to the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball training center in North Carolina, which also includes Parkview, before the usual Region 8-AAAAA wars.

Central Gwinnett Black Knights

-- Head Coach: David Lamberth

-- 2011 Record: 11-14, seventh in Region 8-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: IF/RHP Luis Valdez, Sr.; IF/RHP Grant Thiel, Sr.; 1B Josh Davis, Sr.; C/OF Eli Vale, Jr.

-- Outlook: The Black Knights will feature one of the county's youngest teams, with Valdez, Theil and Davis the only seniors on the roster. Not a pleasant prospect in a region that includes the defending state champion and at least two other potential strong contenders. However, Lamberth is hopeful his young squad can grow up in a hurry and remain competitive.

Dacula Falcons

-- Head Coach: John Poitevint

-- 2011 Record: 18-12, third in Region 8-AAAAA, second round, Class AAAAA state playoffs

-- Returning Starters: RHP Brandyn Bartlett, Sr. (7-2, 2.45 ERA, 30 K, 51 IP); C/RHP Morgan Loyd, Sr. (.346, 3 HR, 15 RBIs, 1-2, 3.16 ERA, 15 K, 20 IP); SS/RHP Michael Barnes (.321, 1 HR, 14 RBIs); 3B/RHP Tyler Crumley, Jr. (.311, 1 HR, 11 RBIs); 1B/OF Travis Vanderhorst (.359, 2 HR, 12 RBIs), Sr.

-- Other key returners: LHP Dylan Brown, Soph. (1-1, 3.20, 12 K, 15 IP); RHP/OF Matt Cole, Sr. (.195, 9 RBIs)

-- Outlook: While the Falcons lost a couple of key pieces from last year's surprising state run, several others are back to give them a solid shot to return to the postseason. Bartlett, Loyd and Brown all are battle-tested on the mound, though depth will be needed to develop behind them on the pitching staff. The bats remain consistent in terms of making contact, though the Falcons will look for a little more pop throughout the lineup.

Grayson Rams

-- Head Coach: Seth Rhine

-- 2011 Record: 16-10, fifth in Region 8-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: OF/LHP Austin Meadows, Jr. (.388, 1 HR, 18 RBIs, 19 R, 11 SB); RHP/1B/OF Taylor Allum, Jr. (4-2, 1 save, 2.21 ERA, 27 K in 31 IP); OF/RHP Chris Erwin, Jr. (.368, 1 HR, 19 RBIs, 2-1, 0.86, 14 K in 16 IP); IF Brandon Benson, Jr., IF Juan Flores, Sr.

-- Outlook: A late loss left the Rams one game short of the state playoffs last year. However, a core made up of a solid junior class that includes Super Six outfielder Meadows and top right-handed arms Allum and Erwin make them a legitimate challenger to Parkview for the region crown.

Parkview Panthers

-- Head Coach: Chan Brown

-- 2011 record: 29-10, Region 8-AAAAA champions, Class AAAAA state champions

-- Returning Starters: 1B/RHP Matt Olson, Sr. (.426, 17 HR, 43 RBIs, 8-3, 3.65 ERA, 72 K, 69 IP); RHP/OF Jack Esmonde, Sr. (.409, 1 HR, 20 RBIs, 4-1, 4 saves, 2.76 ERA, 24 K, 25 IP); SS Edwin Arias, Sr. (.458, 7 HR, 54 RBIs, 44 R, 11 SB); RHP Jesse Foster, Sr. (6-1, 2.63 ERA, 56 K, 71 IP); 2B/DH Jeff Ronpirin, Sr. (.337, 3 HR, 24 RBIs); CF Josh Hart, Jr. (.449, 4 HR, 22 RBIs, 53 R, 18 SB); C Jarrett Freeland, Jr. (.400, 4 HR, 19 RBIs); RF Ryan Blanton, Jr. (.390, 1 HR, 26 RBIs); 3B/2B Rob Youngblood, Jr. (.404, 1 HR, 11 RBIs); LHP Mac Marshall, Soph. (3-0, 5.67 ERA, 29 K, 21 IP)

-- Other key returners: OF A.J. Davis, Sr. (.383, 3 HR, 16 RBIs)

-- Outlook: After taking the state title last year, the Panthers will understandably have a big target on their backs with eight returning position player starters, all three of their top-line starting pitchers and their top late arm out of the bullpen. The competition will be as fierce as ever in Region 8-AAAAA, but Parkview should be well-prepared with the return of Daily Post Co-Player of the Year, Super Six selection and Vanderbilt signee Olson as well as All-County selections Arias, Esmonde and Hart leading the list of returners, which should mean another deep postseason run.

Shiloh Generals

-- Head Coach: Reggie Ingram

-- 2011 Record: 13-12, sixth in Region 8-AAAAA

-- Returning Starters: OF/RHP Michael Houchin, Sr. (.309, 4 wins); RHP/1B Josh Nance, Sr. (3.02 ERA); SS Cletis Avery, Jr.; 1B Kyle Lewis, Jr.; 2B B.J. Armstead, Soph.; OF/LHP Chase Waters, Jr.

-- Outlook: With a solid nucleus of six starters returning, plus the addition of some talented newcomers, Ingram is excited about the Generals' prospects to take the next step towards a postseason berth after being in contention until the final week last year. The key may be added depth in the pitching staff to supplement returners Houchin, Nance and Waters. A competitive non-region schedule that includes games against Providence, Centennial and North could help the Generals prepare for the brutal region run, which begins with road games at Parkview and Brookwood.

South Gwinnett Comets

-- Head Coach: Steve Teschner

-- 2011 Record: 14-13, fourth in Region 8-AAAAA, first round, Class AAAAA state playoffs

-- Returning Starters: 3B/SS Montrell Marshall, Soph.

-- Other key returners: RHP/OF Jordan Ramey, Jr.; LHP Brandon Matics, Jr.

-- Outlook: The Comets rival Central as one of the county's youngest teams with only two seniors and one returning full-time starter in Marshall. So, Teschner has his eyes open for youngsters to fill the holes left by graduation. Ramey and Matics got experience last year as sophomores, and could be the cornerstones of the pitching staff.

Region 8-AAA

Lanier Longhorns

-- Head Coach: Chad Longe

-- 2011 Record: 4-21, 12th in Region 8-AAA

-- Returning Starters: C T.J. Richardson, Soph.; RHP Kameron Doster, Soph.; 3B Trenton Little, Soph.; RHP Matt Ramsay, Soph.; SS Michael Diaz, Jr.; 2B Taylor Grant, Jr.; RHP Matt DeWilde, Sr.; 1B Austin Wood, Sr.; OF Kevin Clark, Sr.; OF/P Austin Gaskin, Sr.; RHP/3B Shohn Tanner, Sr.; OF Stephen Rusch, Sr.

-- Outlook: The Longhorns got a rough introduction to varsity baseball last season, but with a year of experience and maturity under their belts, Longe is optimistic Year 2 will see a major step in the right direction. While most of last year's starters are back, he is looking to see more competition at certain positions thanks to added depth.

Region 6-AA

Buford Wolves

-- Head Coach: Tony Wolfe

-- 2011 Record: 31-4, Region 6-AA champions, Class AA state champions

-- Returning Starters: LHP/OF Sam Clay, Sr. (7-2, 2.03 ERA, 77 K, 48 IP, .278, 1 HR, 10 RBIs); 1B/LHP Troy Herterick, Sr. (.454, 6 HR, 37 RBIs, 40 R, 1-1, 4.97 ERA, 11 K, 12 IP); SS/OF Kyler Berrett (.226, 3 HR, 9 RBIs);

-- Other key returners: 3B Clay Gant, Sr. (.250 4 RBIs, .958 fielding pct.); 1B/3B Brian Malone, Sr. (.389, 1 HR, 9 RBIs)

-- Outlook: The loss of nine seniors -- including Daily Post Pitcher of the Year Josh Heddinger -- and outfielder Mason Gentry when his family moved to Texas over the summer, means there are many challenges ahead for the defending state champs. But the return of Super Six Georgia Tech signee Clay and fellow lefty Herterick, plus several other key players who saw action, should boost the Wolves' effort to meet those challenges.

GAC Spartans

-- Head Coach: Cliff Shelton

-- 2011 Record: 16-10, fifth in Region 6-AA

-- Returning Starters: RHP/OF John LaMay, Sr.; RHP/OF Hayden Melson, Sr.; OF Will Parker, Sr.; RHP/SS Patrick Schultz, Sr.; 3B Greg Burland, Jr.; 2B Jordan Dudek, Jr.; IF Rafe Chapple, Soph.; C Jackson O'Brien, Soph.; OF Ross Wood, Soph.; RHP/IF Eric Smotherman, Sr.

-- Other key returners: RHP/IF Zach Feuerbach, Sr.; RHP/IF Chase Markham, Sr.; P/1B Tim Desmond, Jr.; OF Austin Miller, Jr.

-- Outlook: In most other regions, the Spartans likely would have qualified for the state playoffs last season. While the region is hardly weak, it won't be quite as loaded as last year. And Shelton boasts one of the region's most experienced teams with all nine starters returning, including four seniors. WIth Parker and Schultz leading the offense and Smotherman setting the tone on the mound, the Spartans could be ready to make their move this spring.

Region 5-A

Providence Christian Stars

-- Head Coach: Adam Cantrell

-- 2011 Record: 26-13, Region 5-A champions, Class A state runners-up

-- Returning Starters: C/DH Christin Stewart, Sr.; SS Austin Loyd, Sr.; OF Austin Smith, Sr.; OF Tyler Brown, Sr.; 1B/RHP Steven Slaughter, Sr.; RHP Patrick Smith, Sr.; 2B/RHP Josh Carter, Sr.; 3B Erich Stahl, Jr.

-- Outlook: After falling one step short to county rival Hebron in the state finals last year, the Stars are primed for another deep postseason run with the return of eight starters, including Daily Post Co-Player of the Year and Super Six selection Stewart. While the new aluminum bats for this season may cut down a bit on the power display from last year -- led by the state-record 26 home runs by the Tennessee-bound Stewart -- the Stars should still have plenty of pop throughout the lineup that produced 66 homers and 369 runs last season. The biggest question marks may be pitching, where the Stars will have to replace their No. 1 and 2 starters from last year, and defense.

Wesleyan Wolves

-- Head Coach: Brian Krehmeyer

-- 2011 Record: 22-9, second in Region 5-A, second round, Class A state playoffs

-- Returning Starters: 1B Mason Colquitt, Sr. (.375, 8 HR, 31 RBIs); 2B Joseph Sheffield, Sr. (.337, 3 HR, 22 RBIs); SS/RHP Will Anderson, Soph. (.383, 4 HR, 21 RBIs, 5-1); OF/RHP Jamie Stark, Sr. (.353, 14 RBIs, 6-2)

-- Other key returners: C Grant Colton, Soph., C Griffin Bone, Jr.

-- Outlook: Though the second-round playoff exit was their earliest in several years, the Wolves should be in the mix to challenge Providence for the region title and make another run at a state title. First-year coach Krehmeyer inherits a team very similar in makeup to the Stars -- one which still possesses plenty of thunder up and down the batting order, but looks for more depth and consistency on the mound and on defense.

Region 8-A

Hebron Christian Lions

-- Head Coach: Heath Kennedy

-- 2011 Record: 33-3, Region 8-A champions, Class A state champions

-- Returning Starters: LHP Mason Felt, Sr. (11-1, 1.30 ERA, 122 K, 70 IP); RHP/3B Jordan Hillyer, Sr. (7-0, 1 save, 0.67 ERA, 76 K, 41 IP, .438, 16 HR, 61 RBIs); IF P.J. Westbury, Sr. (.365, 3 HR, 23 RBIs); C Brady Shoppe, Jr. (.400, 12 2B); 1B Benji Cash, Jr. (.385); OF Lew Stephens, Jr. (.325)

-- Other key returners: LHP Ryan Threadwell, Sr.

-- Outlook: After capturing the school's first GHSA state championship in any sport last spring, the Lions are poised to make a very strong defense of that title behind a veteran group of six returning starters that included Oregon State-bound Super Six lefty Felt and Kennesaw State-bound, two-way contributor Hillyer. Expect to see others like Westbury, Shoppe, Cash and Stephens to assert themselves in the batting order, while lefties Cash and Threadwell will be counted on to help shore up a few holes in the pitching staff created by graduation.