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Prep Baseball 2010 Preview

Drew

Coach: Brian Paige, first season.

Last year: NA.

Key players: P/C Barry Mayes (fr.); P/INF DeVante Lester (so.); UTL Terrance Prickett (fr.); P/2B Marquise Magwood (fr.); OF/C Anthony Walker (so.).

Outlook: With nine years of coaching experience, Paige has the luxury in his first with the Titans of easing the program in with a junior varsity schedule. With just freshman and sophomores, Paige doesn't have the luxury of solid leadership, but he says that will come. For now, he'll have to do with exciting young hitters and a shaky back end of the pitching staff.

Dutchtown

Coach: Michael Breedlove, first season.

Last year: 16-10; First round of Class AAAA playoffs.

Key players: OF/P Jared Arrington (sr.); C Zach Babischkin (jr.); 1B/P Ryan Cason (sr.); OF Aaron Downing (sr.); OF/P Brandon Ervin (sr.); OF Alex Goss (jr.); SS Kellan Holiday (jr.); 3B Bobby Hudgins (jr.); P/SS Trey Nelson (sr.); 1B Trei Pollion (jr.); OF Jonathan Richey (sr.).

Outlook: Richey (Jackson State) anchors the outfield, Nelson anchors the infield and Breedlove now steers the team after former coach Stephen Phillips left for Locust Grove. Breedlove, a former Forest Park coach, has 10 seniors and a complete roster of upperclassmen, but few have varsity experience. Yet, expectations to make state remain in a favorable region.

Eagle's Landing

Coach: Toby Evans, seventh season.

Last year: 10-12.

Key players: P Sam Bell (jr.); INF Alex Davis (sr.); INF Chad Fine (sr.); INF Isaac Okwandu (sr.); P/OF Eric Rogers (sr.).

Outlook: Evans believes he has a team capable of ending the Golden Eagles' four-year state tournament drought. Bell was a first-team All-Southern Crescent selection and is a solid No. 1 starter. Pitching and defense will be Eagle's Landing's identity this season. If it can get enough offense and get off to a fast start, Evans likes his team's chances. "If we can find some success early in the season, that will be key for us," Evans said.

Eagle's Landing

Christian

Coach: Doug Campbell, fifth year.

Last year: 13-15; Second round of Class A playoffs.

Key players: LF Taylor Barron (sr.); P/DH Cole Carrera (jr.); SS Erik Gailes (sr.); 3B Drew Griswell (sr.); 1B/P Levi Haines (sr.); C Patrick Long (sr.); P Corey Westover (jr.).

Outlook: Campbell considered last season a rebuilding year despite a run into the second round of the Class A playoffs. The pitching staff -- mostly juniors -- returns more experienced with better depth. Barron, Griswell and Long return to anchor the lineup. If the Chargers lineup can produce more consistently, Campbell thinks ELCA takes a step back toward prominence. "The Charger baseball team is moving in the right direction," Campbell said.

Henry County

Coach: Jason Shadden, fourth season.

Last year: 9-14; First round of Class AA playoffs.

Key players: 2B/SS Quay Shavers (sr.), C/OF Keyon Dukes (jr.), P/SS Brendan Moises (jr.); 3B/OF Josh Couch (sr.); P/OF Julian Smith (sr.); C/P Patrick Seymour (sr.); C/2B Zack Cushman (jr.); Josh Childers; Corey Seymour.

Outlook: The loss of three Division I players, including Southern Crescent player of the year Alex Glenn (Southern California), will change the complexion of Henry County's lineup into one less dependent on power. All-region 4-AA selection Dukes returns to lead a deep core of catchers. Shadden says the team "will be young, but strong on the mound." Catching up with region opponents Howard (20-8 last season) and Monticello (17-10) will be tough.

Jonesboro

Coach: Raju Patel, fifth season.

Last year: 11-12.

Key players: P/INF Antonio Allen (sr.); C Mario Cummings (sr.); P/INF Jesse Gardner (sr.); CF Jonathan Smith (sr.).

Outlook: Cardinals rallied late last season to contend in Region 4-AAAA, winning their final six. They expect to battle for a playoff spot again. That should be easier with a core of four seniors. Allen, who's getting looks from Georgia Perimeter and scouts, and Gardner lead the pitching staff. Cummings brings experience behind the plate and a power bat in the lineup. Smith anchors the defense, which Patel says is the team's strength. Patel hopes the offense and inexperienced players can improve in time for region play.

Locust Grove

Coach: Stephen Phillips, first season.

Last year: NA

Key players: 3B/P Jordon Dukes; SS/P Seth Lucio; 1B/P Dawson Brown; P/3B Tyler Duncan; 2B Nick Fincher.

Outlook: Phillips begins the Wildcats program after coaching at Dutchtown for the past five seasons. Phillips enjoys having no seniors, but he also thinks that lack of experience will cause the lineup to struggle to produce runs. Pitching will be a strength, which gives Phillips confidence the team can compete right away in Region 4-AAA.

Lovejoy

Coach: Craig Chatman, eighth season.

Last year: 6-20.

Key players: OF/P Xavier Anthony; 3B/P Krystofer Appleton; SS/P Brandon Chisolm; 2B Theodore Hassan Jr.; OF/P Vance Johnson; OF/P Jeff Joseph; C Josh Joseph; OF/P Courtney Ward.

Outlook: Lovejoy has speed on the base paths and better gloves in the field thanks to some new talent that moved in. Lovejoy has plenty of arms to throw on the mound and a better baseball IQ than last season. But the Wildcats will struggle at the plate and lack experience, Chatman said, and its region won't make things any easier. Last season, Lovejoy lost its first 11. "We need to have some success early on," Chatman said, "so we can build our confidence heading into region play."

Luella

Coach: Andy Cooper, seventh year.

Last year: 22-9; Second round of Class AAAAA playoffs.

Key players: C Derek Boggess (jr.); P Kyle Dickey (sr.); SS/P Julius Gaines (jr.); P Kendal Hill (so.); OF Vincent Jackson (so.); 1B/P Ryan Marsh (sr.); 3B/P Cody Powell (sr.); OF Chase Scott (so.).

Outlook: Last season's Region 2-AAAAA champs must replace 10 seniors, including Southern Crescent pitcher of the year Kelly Holt. Gaines moves over from 2B to SS and is arguably the Lions' best all-around talent. Dickey brings a lot of experience on the mound. How an influx of new players step into their roles will be crucial. "We will have to depend on some young and inexperienced guys to step up and contribute," Cooper said.

Mt. Zion

Coach: Kelcey White, first season.

Last year: 9-17.

Key players: UTL Jeremiah Bell (sr.); C Jeremiah Charlery (sr.); OF Enrique Garcia (sr.); 2B Cedric Hathaway (sr.); 1B/3B David Owens (jr.); OF Emmanuel Parks (fr.); INF/OF/P Marcus Swint (jr.); OF/P Marc Threet (sr.); SS/P Kenneth Wiggins (fr.); INF/P Brandon Wilson (fr.).

Outlook: White has head coaching experience at Riverdale (2001-03), Stone Mountain (2004) and Decatur (2005). His goal is to begin the process of stabilizing the Bulldogs program, as he's the third coach in three years to take the helm. To do that, White will start up to four freshman, including Parks, Wiggins and Wilson. Threet is a speedy outfielder who covers a lot of territory. Defense and pitching will be key for a team that was inconsistent in both facets last season.

Mundy's Mill

Coach: Patrick Smith, sixth season.

Last year: 10-12.

Key players: 1B/C Robert Bell (jr.); 2B/OF Rashad Crawford (so.); OF Shawn Dunlap (sr.); 3B Raphael Griffin (sr.); P/SS Corey Harmon (so.); P Anthony Hammons (jr.); OF Gavin Hussey (jr.); OF Dwayne Jackson (sr.); P/2B Sean Moore (sr.); P/OF Marvin Taylor (sr.); P/OF Jonathan Whitted (jr.).

Outlook: Tigers were a tough opponent last year and they return nearly every significant contributor. Smith expects the Tigers to be competitive again in a tough region, maybe good enough to return to the state tournament after missing out last season. Mundy's Mill was 6-2 against Clayton teams and 4-10 against everyone else last year.

North Clayton

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Coach: Doug Henry, third season.

Last year: 12-12.

Key players: OF/P Justin Brown (sr.); OF/P Khalil Stinson (so.); 2B/P Chris Nutter (jr.); P Davon Alcron (sr.); SS/P Vincent Faison (jr.); C/P Alex Johnson (jr.); C/P Kevin Middlebrook (sr.); SS/P Viraj Patel (jr.); 1B/P Darian Taylor (so.).

Outlook: Eagles will depend on defense and pitching. Alcorn is a crafty left-hander, and Henry expects several pitchers from last year's Clayton County champion junior varsity team that went 17-1 to augment North Clayton's staff. That will be key to overcome an offense that lacks power and will rely on manufacturing runs. "As long as we stay relaxed and have fun, I believe we should be fine," Henry said.

Ola

Coach: Ryan Parejko, fourth season.

Last year: 24-6, Region 4-AAAA champions; Second round of Class AAAA playoffs.

Key players: C Brad Blount (jr.); 3B Kyle Beech (sr.); CF Dacota Cole (sr.); P Darryl Dickey (sr.); 1B Cameron Lewis (sr.); OF Dylan McCarter (sr.); P A.J. Sunstrom (jr.); P Mike Venturelli (sr.); DH/P Bobby Woodall (sr.).

Outlook: The Mustangs lineup and pitching staff returns virtually intact. Few teams can match Ola's depth on the mound with Dickey, McCarter, Sunstrom, Venturelli and Woodall all capable arms. Few teams have as versatile and experienced a lineup. Ola may prove to be the best team in Class AAAA no one's talking about.

Riverdale

Coach: William Silveri, first season.

Last year: 5-18.

Key players: SS/P/OF Samari Portlock (sr.); C Darion Johnson (sr.); P/SS Nikko Love; OF/3B Damarie Harris (sr.); OF/DH Terrell Davis (jr.); 2B/P Avery Leake (jr.); OF/2B Tikeem Cooper (fr.).

Outlook: Silveri has a versatile roster as his disposal in his first season as Raiders head coach. Love, Portlock and Leake are dependable arms, but the pitching staff's depth beyond that trio is questionnable. Silveri trusts his offense and defense and a core of seniors, but a number of underclassmen will be forced into significant playing time. "Our younger guys are going to have to play big and give us significant contributions," Silveri said.

Stockbridge

Coach: Johnny Burch, second season.

Last year: 7-17.

Key players: OF/P Deondre Daffin (jr.); INF/P Chris Hallet (sr.); INF/P Justin Nichols (jr.); OF/P Deon Nowell (jr.); C Greg Pitts (jr.); INF Brent Williams (jr.); OF/P Mitchell Williams (jr.); INF/P Curtis Wood (jr.).

Outlook: One plus for the Tigers in Burch's second season at the helm is pitching depth. Stockbridge will have more arms than last year, but none that appear ready to seize the role of an ace or No. 2 starter. Stockbridge will have more upperclassmen, but few with significant experience. Burch raves about the improvement on defense and feels the program is moving in the right direction.

Union Grove

Coach: Allen Franklin, fourth season.

Last year: 16-11, First round of Class AAAAA playoffs.

Key players: OF Jordan Akins (sr.); C Will Harrison (sr.); P Tyler Padgett (Sr.); P Brice Merritt (sr.); Adam Lass (sr.); Caleb Diamon (sr.); Michael McClellan (so.); Logan Smith (so.); Cole Murphy (so.).

Outlook: Union Grove has a deep pitching staff, led by the righty-lefty combo of Padgett-Merritt. Harrison, who signed with Darton College, is a three-year starter at catcher. Akins (Central Florida) is a legitimate five-tool player with a strong arm in the outfield. But the Wolverines will also have some inexperience. Franklin said as many as five sophomores could contribute. "We have a tough schedule," he said, "but it will give our 'young puppies' the experience they need."

-- Brian Paglia