Allatoona off to undefeated start to season
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
April 03, 2014 12:33 AM | 2721 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Seven seniors of the Allatoona baseball team will lead the team in South Florida for a series of games against a pair of highly ranked teams this week. The seniors include, from left, Jordan Wilmert, Spencer Sherer, Clarke Schmidt, Michael Dzurenko, Cooper Murphy, Ryan O’Donnell and Brett Benton.
Seven seniors of the Allatoona baseball team will lead the team in South Florida for a series of games against a pair of highly ranked teams this week. The seniors include, from left, Jordan Wilmert, Spencer Sherer, Clarke Schmidt, Michael Dzurenko, Cooper Murphy, Ryan O’Donnell and Brett Benton.
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Allatoona failed to make the state baseball playoffs last season despite fielding a team boasting the highest batting average and lowest team earned-run average in program history.

So what did coach Keith Hansen do? He made things simpler.

“We didn’t make the state playoffs last year with one of our best teams statistically in the history of our program,” Hansen said. “So, we harped on the team all summer and fall to execute and be consistent. We went back to the basics, and it’s paid off. The kids are working together really well and it’s a very competitive environment.”

The Buccaneers haven’t only been competitive within their own clubhouse, they’ve been competitive outside of it, starting the season 12-0 overall and 10-0 in Region 5AAAAA.

“Going into this season, we didn’t think we’d be as good as we were the previous year,” said senior starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt. “But, as we got closer as a team, we knew we could be special. We have seven seniors and we’ve all been stepping up as leaders.”

Allatoona has made its season opening winning streak look easy. Two of the Buccaneers’ wins have been 1-run victories while a third was a 2-run triumph. Allatoona has won the remaining nine contests by three or more runs. The closest game this year was an eight-inning 4-3 victory at Villa Rica.

“Anytime you’re undefeated you’re surprised, especially when you have six Division I players in your region,” said Hanson, who is in his sixth season at Allatoona and won his 100th grade earlier in the year. “I’m not surprised that we’re first in our region, though. We have a good mix of seniors and young guys and it’s been fun as the guys get to know each other.

“We’ve created a more competitive environment and the backups are pushing the starters for playing time. It’s kept the guys really motivated.”

Allatoona returned seven players, including two starters, from last year’s 17-9 team and Hansen’s moved some players around to maximize their effectiveness at certain positions.

Position starters include shortstop Justin Evans, first baseman Brett Benton, second baseman Brady Eeles, catcher Pete Derkay, center fielder Kyle Jacobsen and designated hitter Spencer Sherer. Schmidt, the team’s No. 1 pitcher, starts at third base when he’s not pitching. Jordan Wilmert, Brandon Rainey and Drew Swanson also see time in the outfield.

“Evans has been a catalyst for us on offense,” Hansen said. “Everytime we have a big inning, he’s been a key reason for that.”

Schmidt, who has committed to South Carolina, joins Cooper Murphy and Grayson Harbin in the Buccaneers’ talented starting rotation. Wilmert, Blake Bradley, Jacob Davenport, Michael Dzurenko and Ryan O’Donnell lead the relief efforts.

“Our three main pitchers have been outstanding guys,” Hansen said. “The whole pitching staff has done an excellent job keeping us in ball games. We have four lefties and four righties in the bullpen, so we’re deep there. The problem is they don’t get a lot of innings because our starters pitch so well.”

The Buccaneers’ pitching staff owns a 0.86 ERA and their team batting average is .313. Beginning today in Fort Myers, Fla., Allatoona puts its streak and impressive statistical numbers on the line in the Perfect Game High School Showdown against teams the organization has ranked among the top 15 in the nation.

The Buccaneers face No. 9 Sarasota today and No. 13 and defending champion Venice Friday. The event concludes Saturday with championship and consolation round contests.

“The purpose for this trip was to play top competition so if we make the playoffs, we’ve seen some good players to help us prepare,” Hansen said.

Schmidt’s looking forward to the games.

“This will definitely be the biggest test we’ve had all year,” he added. “We rarely get to see talent like this, so this we really show us what we’re made of. No one’s skeptical. We just want to perform well against good competition.”

Hansen feels his team will be ready.

“I believe we’re a good ball club,” he said. “If we can got out and execute and compete with these guys we can play with anybody at the high school level.”

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