The 2012 season may have a different outcome. The same teams could represent the region in the Class AAAAA state tournament, but in different order. Or there could be other teams thrown into the mix.
“I really think its going to be a balanced region,” Hillgrove coach Dave Richardson said. “The four teams that made last year are quality teams, but you also have Harrison, who are the 2010 state champions, and teams like McEachern and Campbell, who have gained valuable experience.”
Hillgrove lost 13 seniors to graduation, but the Hawks have young talented pitching coming up and hitters Tyler Mauzy and Tyler Weyenberg are also back.
North Cobb has ace Keith Pachmayer returning, but it will have to replace the remainder of its starting rotation. Eric Britt and Elijah Siepnieski are frontrunners to take over.
South Cobb has most of its lineup back, behind catcher Avery Williams and shortstop Tyler Minkennen, but it lost the pitching that steered the Eagles into the postseason, including David Collins.
Kennesaw Mountain, on the other hand, has a senior-laden roster led by first baseman Joe Marlow, and that’s enough to make the Mustangs a potential region contender.
There’s also Harrison to consider. The 2010 state champion will want to prove that missing the state playoffs last season was only a fluke, with Georgia Tech-bound shortstop Matt Gonzalez and Georgia-bound third baseman Zack Bowers returning.
Harrison also has a new pitcher on its varsity staff, and one with a familiar name. Ben Schniederjans, a 6-foot-2 junior right-hander, is the younger brother of former Hoyas golf star Ollie Schniederjans.
While McEachern and Campbell have been young and inexperienced in recent years, both appear to be more seasoned, and they may have their say about how the region standings play out.
Region 5AAAAA may have a few twists and turns as well, but coaches are saying that Etowah is the most experienced, especially on the mound. Lassiter is another squad that produces talent year after year, Wheeler is expected to hang around awhile and Walton is on its way to its 2007 state championship form after some rebuilding years.
“I think we’re all sitting together,” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “I don’t feel that there is a team that’s outright loaded. The top three teams are going to be evenly matched.”
Both Walton and Wheeler are looking to duplicate their playoff seasons from a year ago, but Marietta could spoil someone’s plans with the amount of returners it has. The Blue Devils will have a senior-laden lineup behind Vanderbilt signee Dansby Swanson, Nick High, Ben DeJarnett and Tyler Wilson.
Nine of the 14 players on Wheeler’s varsity roster are experienced, led by infielders Trey Alexander, Kevin Anderson and left fielder Andrew Davis. But with their lack of depth, the Wildcats will have to stay healthy.
Walton has just four seniors, but it is also loaded with returning players, led by catcher Drew Adler and outfielders Josh Merrigan and Stephen Wrenn, who is expected to also be in the starting rotation.