Collins Hill Eagles
-- Head coach: Paul Pierce
-- 2012 record: 13-12-1, fourth in Region 7-AAAAA, first round of Class AAAAA state playoffs
-- Returning starters: SS John Topoleski, Sr.; LHP/1B Nate Williams, Sr.; RHP Ryan Askew, Sr.; IF Adam Horridge, Sr.; DH Mitch McCain, Soph.
-- Key newcomers: C Chris Schwarzer, Sr.; RHP/OF Trevor Powers, Soph.; UT Alex Keown, Soph.; LHP/1B Cole Zabowski, Fr.
-- Other key returners: C Charles Adams, Sr.; OF/RHP Austin Gonzalez, Jr.; LHP Thomas McBride, Sr.
-- Outlook: There are a few holes to fill in the lineup after losing a handful of seniors to graduation, including first-team All-County selection Wayne Wages. But the Eagles have a good senior core returning in the foursome of Topoleski, Williams, Askew and Horridge. To get back to the playoffs, they will need for newcomers to step up in key areas and to keep focused, especially defensively.
-- Head coach: Matt Champitto
-- 2012 record: 9-16, seventh in Region 7-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: OF Ryan McClendon, Jr.; OF Nick Efird, Sr.; RHP/OF Dominique Jackson, Jr.; RHP/SS Austin Riedel, Sr.; C Caleb Autry, Sr.
-- Key newcomers: 3B Junior Fernandez, Sr.; RHP/C Jose Ponce, Jr.; RHP/1B Jonathan Garcia, Jr.; IF John Stoy, Sr.; RHP Noe Garcia, Sr.; OF Darrian Graves, Jr.; RHP Khalil Muhammad, Jr.; 1B Nolan Graham, Sr.
-- Outlook: After a frustrating season in which they lost eight games by two runs or less, the Wildcats have the further burden of having to replace top-line starting pitchers and second-team All-County selections Chris Rich and Zack Erwin after graduating. But Champitto is very optimistic that a strong group of newcomers can blend with five returning starters to form a scrappy team capable of battling for a postseason berth.
-- Head coach: Chris Reeves
-- 2012 record: 4-18 (non-region schedule)
-- Returning starters: IF Shea Wilkey, Jr.; 1B Eric Arp, Sr.; CF Austin Johnson, Jr.; C Johnathan Arnold, Soph.; OF Josh Koffman, Soph.
-- Key newcomers: Austin Wilkey; Brian Gocool
-- Outlook: The Mustangs once again will take on a non-region schedule, and have high hopes for pushing toward the .500 mark with five returning starters, including Arnold behind the plate and Johnson in center field. Wilkey and Arp should be the focal points of a young batting order.
Mountain View Bears
-- Head coach: Jason Johnson
-- 2012 record: 17-9, fifth in Region 7-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: RHP/1B/OF Garry Gwaltney, Sr.; 2B Peyton Fore, Sr.; 3B Ben Utley, Jr.; RHP/RF Beau Blair, Sr.; CF Alex Dedels, Sr.; RHP/SS Joey Bell, Sr.; RHP A.J. Moore, Jr.; SS Forrest Girardeau, Jr.
-- Key newcomers: OF Kielan Whitner, Soph.; C Brad Weaver, Soph.; RHP/2B Matthew Hubbard, Jr.; 1B/C Brant Schwendel, Sr.; OF Josh Logan, Sr.; SS/3B Patrick Powell, Sr.; C Collin Davis, Sr.; RHP/OF Garrett Strope, Soph.
-- Outlook: After finishing just one game short of a postseason berth in just the program's third varsity season, the Bears appear poised to take the next step this year with the return of eight starters, led by second-team All-County ace Moore (6-3, 1 save, 1.33 ERA, 59 K, 47 IP), plus three others -- Gwaltney, Blair and Bell -- that saw innings in the rotation and contributed to a staff ERA of 1.92. The offense is also experienced, with 11 different players having seen significant at bats last season, led by Fore (.342) and Blair (.301, 1 HR, 11 RBIs).
Mill Creek Hawks
-- Head coach: Doug Jones
-- 2012 record: 24-11, Region 7-AAAAA champions, Class AAAAA semifinals
-- Returning starters: RHP Cody Pugh, Sr. (10-1, 1.86 ERA, 84 K); RHP Shane Seckinger, Sr. (9-2, 1.25 ERA, 102 K); C Tyler Boldt, Sr.; OF Brandon Harmon, Sr.; OF Bryan Hudson, Sr.; IF Logan Moseley, Jr.
-- Outlook: The Hawks always seem to be in the conversation whether the topic is contenders for the region or state title, and this year should be no exception. The 1-2 mound punch of Seckinger and Pugh is enough to make Mill Creek formidable. And while there are several holes in the starting lineup to fill in the starting lineup due to graduation, Boldt, Harmon, Hudson and Moseley make up a strong core to build around. So, another deep postseason run is a realistic possibility.
Norcross Blue Devils
-- Head coach: Jonathan Wyman
-- 2012 record: 9-17, sixth in Region 7-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: 2B Zach Shirah, Sr.; OF/RHP Joseph Wilber, Sr.; IF Jess Ramsey, Sr.; RHP Jackson Williams, Sr.; IF Jascanel Ferreras, Jr.; C Griffin Helms, Jr.; IF Andrew Lightle, Jr.
-- Key newcomers: UT/C Trevor Craport, Jr.; OF/P Devin Geraghty, Jr.; OF Justin Henderson, Jr.; P Will Shirah, Jr.; IF Yuuki Bomar, Soph.; P Brooks Buckler, Soph.; P Graeme Stinson, Fr.
-- Outlook: The Blue Devils took a bit of step back last year, but have high hopes of rebounding this spring behind seven returning starters, including Wilber and Williams at the top of the pitching rotation. With some more dynamic young arms added to the staff, the biggest question may involve where the production will come from, though this year's batting order should be deeper and more experienced.
North Gwinnett Bulldogs
-- Head coach: Frank Vashaw
-- 2012 record: 17-12, third in Region 7-AAAAA, first round, Class AAAAA state playoffs
-- Returning starters: LHP Tucker Baca, Jr. (6-2, 1.73 ERA, 56 K, 68 IP); RHP Jordan Brown, Sr. (3-2, 2.13 ERA, 26 K, 42 IP); RHP/1B/OF Michael Haynes, Sr. (2-3, 5.20 ERA, .275, 12 RBIs); CF Cody Short, Sr. (.257, 11 RBIs); C Ben Carswell, Soph. (.268, 6 RBIs); 2B Justin Dutka, Soph. (.284, 8 RBIs); SS Justin Moran, SR.; 1B Brady Powell, Sr.; OF Robert Pucciarello, Jr. (.238, 1 HR, 6 RBIs)
-- Key newcomers: IF/OF Alex Hartz, Soph.; P Connor Darling, Fr.; 3B/RHP Blake Sangster, Soph.
-- Outlook: Like a lot of teams in the region, pitching will be a definite strength for the Bulldogs as they try for their eighth straight postseason appearance and ninth in the last decade. The rotation of second-team All-County lefty Baca and right-handers Brown and Haynes is among the best in the county, while youngster Darling and Sangster are expected to bolster the bullpen. At the plate, there is some returning experience, but some younger players will need to take their game to another level to help the Bulldogs challenge for the region title.
Peachtree Ridge Lions
-- Head coach: Ryan Hanik
-- 2012 record: 18-11, second in Region 7-AAAAA, first round Class AAAAA state playoffs
-- Returning starters: OF Cooper Burdick, Sr.; 3B/RHP Tyler Haswell, Sr.; C Tyler Chaney, Sr.; P/1B Jonathan Hudson, Sr.; P Ryne Inman, Soph.; C Anthony Perez, Sr.; SS Steven Tomlinson, Jr.
-- Outlook: After making the postseason the last two seasons, the Lions hope to continue the momentum behind seven returning starters. Their biggest strength will be on the mound, where two-way All-County standout and South Carolina signee Haswell (5-2, 1 save, 2.35, 52 K, 53 IP; .341, 3 HR, 15 RBIs, .964 OPS) leads what should be a strong rotation, backed by experienced arms Hudson and Inman. If they can find some depth to offer Haswell protection in the batting order, the Lions should be a contender to not only challenge for the region title, but also to take the next step into later rounds of the state playoffs.
-- Head coach: Chris Hays
-- 2012 record: 10-15, seventh in Region 8-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: OF Brett Self, Jr.; RHP/IF Hayden Pendergraft, Jr.; 3B Curtis Terry, Soph.; IF Scott McCalla, Sr.; C Gabe Tiller, Soph.; LHP/OF Sean Fitzpatrick, Soph.; RHP/IF Paul Duffey, Soph.
-- Key Newcomers: OF Daniel Wenum, Sr.; SS Dustin Ross, Jr.; IF Connor Redmond, Soph.; OF Jordan Waites, Jr.; P/OF Nathaniel Howard, Jr.; P Jonathan Barnett, Soph.
-- Outlook: The Tigers made major strides last year by improving by seven wins, but they are still a young program that will need new faces to step up in one of the toughest regions in the state. The loss of pitcher Alexander Martin to a season-ending injury will hurt, but Pendergraft (2-0, 1.94 ERA, 14 K, 21 IP) is back, as are five overall starters, including fourth-year starter Self in the outfield.
-- Head coach: Ross Book
-- 2012 record: 1-25, tied ninth in Region 8-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: RHP/SS Parker Osterle, Soph.; RHP/3B Carlos Perez, Jr.; OF Mason Brown, Jr.; OF/2B Eric Gordon, Sr.; P/1B Jacob Glass, Jr.; P/OF Jordan Delgado, Jr.; C Anthony Freites, Jr.; 1B Jeremy McCoy, Jr.
-- Key newcomers: RHP/OF/IF Michael Rodriguez, Fr.; 2B Abiner Rodriguez, Sr.; P/1B Andy Lora, Fr.; RHP/3B Brendon Perez, Fr.; RHP/3B Jharol De La Rosa, Soph.
-- Outlook: In his first season as coach, Book is hoping to instill hope in a struggling program. There is plenty of experience returning, including six everyday starters and two more part-time starters, plus some up-and-coming newcomers. But in a region that includes two state finalists and a third semifinalists, the Patriots may be looking to take some baby steps forward.
-- Head coach: Rick Howard
-- 2012 record: 25-12, second in Region 8-AAAAA, Class AAAAA state runner-up
-- Returning starters: IF Brock Baughcum, Soph.; O/IF/LHP Jordan Dykes, Sr.; OF Tre Lawrence, Sr.; C Zach Moon, Sr.; OF/IF Garrett Reynolds, Sr.; IF Jonathan White, Soph.
-- Other key returners: P Matt Aycock, Sr.; C/OF Nick Fonseca, Sr.; RHP Michael Ranieri, Sr.
-- Key newcomers: P Noah Albury, Jr.; P Thomas Byelick, Jr.; OF Mickey Creighton, Jr.; IF Alvaro Del Castillo, Jr.; P Parker Farschman, Soph.; IF Riley Frady, Jr.; P Brett Johns, Sr.; C Mason LeBlanc, Soph; OF Vince Moss, Jr.; IF Hank Owens, Fr.; OF Robbie Perstroius, Sr.
-- Outlook: The loss of a large, successful senior class like the one Brookwood has to endure might be crippling to some programs. But the Broncos should once again be competitive in the region race for a postseason bid, thanks to a good nucleus to build upon at the plate, led by seniors Dykes, Lawrence, Moon and Reynolds. The biggest challenge will be on the mound, where last year's entire starting rotation -- led by Daily Post Pitcher of the Year and Atlanta Braves first-round draft pick Lucas Sims -- must be replaced. Dykes and Aycock move up from the bullpen, where Ranieri returns after posting four saves, second most in the county, a year ago.
Central Gwinnett Black Knights
-- Head coach: David Lamberth
-- 2012 record: 6-20, Eighth in Region 8-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: C/OF Eli Vale, Sr.; 2B/OF Darwin Mendez, Sr.; OF Tosin Ajala, Sr.; OF Corey Gray, Jr.; UT Roy Clackum, Jr.; SS/RHP Paulo De Los Santos, Soph.; UT Kishan Raja, Soph.
-- Key newcomers: OF/P Nestor Ramirez, Jr.; 3B/RHP Pedro Green, Sr.; C/OF Sam Gassert, Sr.; 1B Kessler Beckett, Sr.
-- Outlook: There's bad news and good news for the Black Knights coming into the season. The bad news is they will have to rebuild the bulk of the pitching staff after losing several key contributors from last year to graduation. The good news is that Lamberth is very optimistic that some of the newcomers, like Ramirez and Green, will be able to step in and give some quality innings. The better news is that there is plenty of experience returning to the batting order, including Vale, who was the team's second-leading hitter a year ago.
-- Head coach: John Poitevint
-- 2012 record: 8-18, fifth in Region 8-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: SS/RHP Tyler Crumley, Sr. (.296, 12 RBIs); C Austin Collins, Jr. (.302, 14 RBIs); 1B Matt Nigh, Sr. (.250, 14 RBIs); 2B Josh Bullock, Sr.; LHP Dylan Brown, Sr. (3-4, 3.47 ERA, 44 K, 41 IP)
-- Key newcomers: OF/P Michael Stampfel, Sr.; OF Nick Heamon, Sr.; 3B/RHP Chance Keefer, Sr.; IF/RHP Matt Jones, Jr.; OF Brandon Ake, Jr.; OF/P Nick Mollica, Jr.; P M.J. Hawkins, Soph.; C Henry Mesa, Sr.; 1B/P Gage Murray, Soph.
-- Outlook: With just four regular starters returning, the Falcons do have some holes to fill. However, the return of Crumley, Collins and Bullock should make them solid up the middle. Brown finished strong down the stretch a year ago, and leads a solid pitching staff, though several inexperienced youngsters will be tested sternly in a strong region.
-- Head coach: Jed Hixson
-- 2012 record: 27-9, third in Region 8-AAAAA, Class AAAAA state semifinals
-- Returning starters: CF Austin Meadows, Sr. (.390, 4 HR, 28 RBIs, 19 SB); RHP/1B/OF Taylor Allum, Sr. (9-0, 1.57 ERA, 43 K in 49 IP); OF/LHP Chris Erwin, Sr. (.364, 1 HR, 16 RBIs, 25 R, 2-2, 2.41, 39 K in 40 IP); SS Brandon Benson, Sr. (.301, 19 RBIs); RHP/1B Jack Banda, Sr. (.320, 2 HR, 26 RBIs, 4-2 2.18 ERA, 40 K); RHP/OF Korey Anderson, Sr. (.314, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 2-2, 1.94 ERA, 16 K); 2B Jeril Dawson, Sr. (.441, 1 HR, 17 RBIs, 39 R); 3B Oscar Valdes, Sr.; C Colton Harrelson, Jr.
-- Outlook: With a large senior class and a host of returning starters, including national No. 1 prospect Meadows and fellow Super Six selection Allum, Grayson seems to be loaded at pretty much every position. The goals are understandably high for the Rams after making the Class AAAAA state semifinals a year ago. They will be tested by the usual region heavyweights, plus an appearance at the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. But if the Rams remain focused on the big picture, they should be among the favorites in the chase for the region and state titles.
-- Head coach: Chan Brown
-- 2012 record: 31-6, Region 8-AAAAA champions, Class AAAAA state champions
-- Returning starters: CF Josh Hart, Sr. (.373, 2 HR, 19 RBIs, 44 R, 30 SB, .923 OPS); C/RHP/1B Jarrett Freeland, Sr. (.340, 4 HR, 21 RBIs, 10 2B, 1.010 OPS); RF/RHP Ryan Blanton, Sr. (.319, 20 RBIs); 3B/2B/RHP Rob Youngblood, Sr. (.303, 3 HR, 22 RBIs, 23 R); LHP/OF/1B Mac Marshall, Jr. (2-4, 5.10 ERA, 23 K, 23 IP); C/DH/1B/RHP Hunter Thornton (.366, 3 HR, 15 RBIs, 22 R, 1.007 OPS, 1-0, 1 save, 2.86 ERA, 5 K, 7 IP); 1B/RHP Sam McCoy, Jr.
-- Key newcomers: LHP Andrew Dorminey, Jr.; SS/2B Trevor Brown, Soph.; LHP/1B/OF Jordan Kelly, Jr.; 2B/SS Daino Deas, Soph.
-- Outlook: Don't be fooled by the loss of two-time Daily Post Player of the Year Matt Olson and three other All-County starters to graduation. The two-time defending state champion Panthers will once again be in the hunt for both the region and state titles. There is still plenty of firepower at the plate in Super Six selections Hart and Freeland, plus three other returning everyday starters from a year ago. The biggest question mark may be on the mound, where Olson, Jesse Foster and Jack Esmonde are gone after combining for 28 of the team's 31 wins last year. However, Marshall had some clutch performances during the playoffs, whle Freeland, in his first varsity season as a pitcher, and newcomer Dorminey are expected to provide a boost.
-- Head coach: Reggie Ingram
-- 2012 record: 17-12, fourth in Region 8-AAAAA, first round of Class AAAAA state playoffs
-- Returning starters: 2B/SS Marcus McCorkle, Sr.; SS/2B Cletis Avery, Sr.; 1B Kyle Lewis, Sr.; 3B Bryan Armstead, Jr.; OF/LHP Chase Waters, Sr.; C/OF Jeremy Glore, Sr.; LHP JaMarkus George, Sr.; IF/OF Gilberto Lopez, Jr.; OF Eriq White, Soph.; LHP/OF Brandon Hill, Soph.
-- Outlook: After being one of the biggest surprise teams in the county last season by making their first state playoffs appearance in 13 years, Shiloh likely won't be able to sneak up on anybody this season. Then again, with a large group of returners, including All-County selections McCorkle (.439, 3 HR, 15 RBIs, 1.217 OPS) and Lewis (.378, 2 HR, 20 RBIs, 1.011 OPS), the Generals probably won't have to. And with a strong lefty-dominated pitching staff led by George (2-1, 1.35 ERA, 20 K, 20 IP), Waters (3-1, 1 save, 3.05 ERA, 38 K, 34 IP and Hill (3-1, 2.37 ERA, 20 K, 20 IP) to complement the lineup, Shiloh is poised to make a serious challenge to Parkview and Grayson for the region title, and perhaps a deep playoff run.
South Gwinnett Comets
-- Head coach: Steve Teschner
-- 2012 record: 12-14, fifth in Region 8-AAAAA
-- Returning starters: SS Montrell Marshall, Jr., LHP/OF Ryan Patterson Sr. (.347); C/UT Mason Hart, Sr.; 1B Zack Bogardts, Sr.; LHP Brandon Matics, Sr.; RHP/UT Jordan Ramey, Sr.; C/DH Mitchell Davis, Sr.; UT JoJo Borrego, Sr.; OF Colton Nash, Sr.
-- Key newcomers: LHP Miles Kershaw, Sr.; UT Morgan Miller, Jr.; LHP/OF Chad Smith, Soph.; RHP/IF Gabriel Tillman, Soph.; C/UT Cole Davis, Soph.
-- Outlook: After going through some growing pains and finishing one game short of a state playoff berth last season, the Comets return a wiser, more experienced team. Seven starters return in the field -- including leading hitter Patterson (.347, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 10 SB) in the outfield and three-year starter Marshall at shortstop -- plus starting pitchers in right-hander Ramey (3-3, 3.61 ERA, 25 K, 35 IP) and lefty Matics (4-4, 2.75 ERA, 32 K, 48 IP). And while breaking through to the postseason in rugged Region 8-AAAAAA will still be tough, the Comets appear better equipped to tackle that challenge this season.
-- Head coach: Chad Longe
-- 2012 record: 15-12, Fourth in Region 8-AAA, first round of Class AAA state playoffs
-- Returning starters: C T.J. Richardson, Jr. (.441, 1 HR, 20 RBIs); RHP Kameron Doster, Jr. (1-5, 2 saves, 2.95 ERA, 47 K, 43 IP); 3B/RHP Trenton Little, Jr. (3-1, 26 K, 17 IP); RHP/1B Matt Ramsay, Jr.; SS Michael Diaz, Sr.; 2B Taylor Grant, Sr.; OF Blake Forte, Sr.
-- Key Newcomers: OF/2B Thomas Johnston, Jr.; P/OF Michael Wilson, Sr.; OF Marcus Milhouse, Soph.; DH/C/1B Kristoff Rietig, Soph.; OF Onyx Berrios, Sr.; OF Marty Sanders, Sr.; SS/2B C.J. Wismer, Soph.; P Dustin Lennon, Jr.; OF/DH Brian Krause, Jr.; OF Clay Wilson, Jr.
-- Outlook: The young Longhorns grew up in a hurry by qualifying for the postseason in just their second varsity season since the school opened. New challenges await with a move up to Class AAAA, but with seven returning starters, including hard-hitting Richardson behind the plate and top arms Doster and Little, Lanier should be a solid contender to return to the playoffs.
-- Head coach: Tony Wolfe
-- 2012 record: 21-12, Region 6-AA runner-up, Class AA state quarterfinals
-- Returning starters: C Joey Bart, Soph. (.420, 1 HR, 13 RBIs); SS/ RHP Austin Upshaw, Jr. (.323, 2 HR, 14 RBIs, 35 R); 3B/ RHP Josh Bryan, Sr. (.402, 2 HR, 36 RBIs, 23 R)
-- Key newcomers: 2B Kayden Berrett, Jr.; OF Patrick Burnette, Jr.; OF/C Leo Narrison, Jr.; OF Ryan Bramlett, Sr.; OF/P Russell, Klein, Soph.; SS/ RHP Conner Bennett, Soph.; P Jake Higginbotham, Soph.; OF Dylan Satterfield, Jr.; P/1B Hunter Pickett, Jr.; SS Dallas Richards, Jr.; RHP/3B Jake Mayo, Jr.; 2B Ryan Groves, Sr.
-- Outlook: After being among the top Class AA teams in the state the last two seasons, the Wolves step up to Class AAA this year with a young team that returns just three starters and may go through some growing pains early in the season. But with a solid core like Bart, Upshaw and second-team All-County selection Bryan to build around at the plate and a an abundance of strong arms that includes five different pitcher seeing varsity innings a year ago, Buford should steadily improve as the season progresses and be in the postseason mix.
-- Head coach: Cliff Shelton
-- 2012 record: 15-11, fifth in Region 6-AA
-- Returning starters: 3B Greg Burland, Sr.; SS Jordan Dudek, Sr.; 2B Rafe Chapple, Jr.; C Jackson O'Brien, Jr.; CF Ross Wood, Jr.; RHP Patrick Stone, Sr.; RHP Tim Desmond, Sr.
-- Key newcomers: OF David Elrod, Jr.; RHP Wes Bucher, Soph.; OF Connor Joseph, Jr.; LHP/OF Peyton McGuire, Soph.; RHP/1B Jack McLaughlin, Jr.; RHP/IF/OF Chad Arnold, Jr.; IF Javy Lopez, Jr.
-- Outlook: Though the Spartans' odds of making the state playoffs have dramatically increased with only five teams in the region, they must still deal with stacked foes in Wesleyan, Lovett and Westminster among them. But they are also well-equipped to step up to the challenge with an experienced lineup, led by Wood (.339, 1 HR, 15 RBIs, 14 SB), Burland (.279, 15 RBIs), Dudek (.271, 1 HR, 15 RBIs, 12 SB) and Chapple (.255, 1 HR, 10 RBIs), plus returning right-handers Stone (3-5, 3.12 ERA, 25 K, 42 IP) and Desmond (4-2, 3.89, 21 K, 27 IP) on the mound.
-- Head coach: Brian Krehmeyer
-- 2012 record: 16-11, third in Region 5-A, first round, Class A state playoffs
-- Returning starters: IF Griffin Bone, Sr.; C Grant Colton, Jr.; OF Brandon Moss, Sr.; P Johnny Richards, Sr.; IF Carter Hall, Soph.; IF/OF Jahmai Jones, Soph.
-- Key newcomers: IF Sam Carver, Sr.; P Tyler Maughon, Sr.; OF Pierce Ostwalt, Sr.; OF Conner Woerner, Sr.; P Trey Mannion, Jr.; P Christopher Peden, Jr.
-- Outlook: Offense shouldn't be a problem for the Wolves, whose big bats of Bone (.366, 2 HR, 26 RBIs), Hall (.364, 13 RBIs, 9 SB), Moss (4 HR, 21 RBIs) and Jones are (.315, 10 RBIs, 5 SB) all back after productive seasons last year. The key will be quick production from an inexperienced pitching staff of which Richards (2-0, 0.58 ERA in just 12 innings) has the most varsity innings under his belt. Still, the presence of a veteran catcher in Colton, plus the offensive support, could buy enough time to allow the newcomers to ease into a comfort zone and help the Wolves make a serious run at the region title.
Region 8-A, Division B
Hebron Christian Lions
-- Head coach: Josh Carter
-- 2012 record: 28-4, Region 8-A champions, Class A state quarterfinals
-- Returning starters: C Brady Shoppe, Sr.; 1B Benji Cash, Sr.; OF Lew Stephens, Sr.; IF Nate Holt, Sr.; P Andrew Molnar, Jr.; OF/P Drew Coker, Jr.; OF Sid Turner, Soph.
-- Key newcomers: SS Haydn Nechanicky, Jr.; OF/P Caleb Martin, Fr.; IF Tyler Calvert, Fr.
-- Outlook: The Lions lost several significant pieces that played a major role in the 2011 Class A state championship team and last season's state quarterfinals qualifier. But several other pieces return, with Shoppe, Cash, Stephens, Coker and Turner making up the nucleus of what should remain a formidable everyday lineup. The Lions will also have to depend on a lot of new arms in the pitching staff, with only Molnar having thrown signifiant innings a year ago. If the young staff can assert itself, another deep postseason run is an attainable goal.
Providence Christian Stars
-- Head coach: Adam Cantrell
-- 2012 record: 27-12, Region 5-A runner-up, Class A state champion
-- Returning starters: 3B/RHP Erich Stahl, Sr.; IF/RHP Max Broom, Sr.; C/OF Charlie Scott, Sr.; DH/LHP Luke Henderson, Sr.
-- Key newcomers: RHP/3B Jackson Winskie, Soph.; P/1B Zach Meier, Jr.
-- Outlook: It's not easy for a team to cope with the loss of a perhaps the most successful senior class in school history, led by five All-County selections, including Gwinnett and Georgia home run king Christin Stewart. However, while the Storm will have plenty of new faces, they also return some weapons from last year's state title team. A pitching staff that returns two key starters in second-team All-County selection and two-way threat Stahl (.306, 3 HR, 19 RBIs, 41 R; 6-2, 1.41 ERA, 47 K, 54 IP) and lefty Henderson (6-4, 3.67, 53 K, 63 IP) provides a solid building block, along with position players Broom and Scott, who saw significant action last year. And the Storm are counting on youngsters like Winskie and Meier to make an immediate impact in order to return to the postseason.