MCDONOUGH — The 2018 baseball season will begin this month. Below are previews for each Henry County team.

Dutchtown Bulldogs

Head Coach: P.J. Millet

2017 Record: 20-8

Key Returners: RHP/INF Lennox Francis, INF/RHP Justin Brooks, OF Justin Robinson, INF Alexander Humphrey, RHP Michael Corrales

Key Departures: DeJuan Van Dyke, A.J. Ellis, Jaylin McMichael, Latek McNeil

Outlook: Dutchtown is coming into 2018 with P.J. Millet replacing Kelcey White as head coach. Millet has several key pieces to work with, and said he’s excited to get started.

“Coming in as the new head baseball coach for Dutchtown High School, my goal is to build this program,” Millet said. “We want to use this year to build and hopefully put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs. In order for us to be successful, it will take a team effort and for a few of our younger guys to step up big this year.”

The loss of All-County and All-Region performer DeJuan Van Dyke will hurt, but All-County players Lennox Francis, Justin Robinson and Justin Brooks are returning. Francis posted a 3.02 ERA in 48 innings while hitting .380 with 22 RBIs. Robinson hit .410 and stole 31 bases. Alexander Humprey, Mike Corrales, William Oliver, Joseph Lymon, Caden Rudkins and Samari Glickman are also expected to contribute this season.

Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy Chargers

Head Coach: Seth Graham

2017 Record: 11-18

Key Returners: OF Josh Holt, RHP Mason East, C Tyler DuBose, LHP Brayden Rush, INF Chris Johnson, INF/RHP Jon Paul Wheeler, OF Johnathan Youngblood, RHP/INF Jack Buckley, RHP/C Caleb Mowery

Key Departures: Zach Daniels, Tre Douglas

Outlook: The Chargers had a down year last season by their lofty standards, but with talented players returning, head coach Seth Graham is excited about the upcoming season.

“We talk every day about defining what success is at ELCA baseball,” Graham said. “Success in our program is giving your very best effort every day to help the brotherhood win. When we get guys giving perfect ‘dirtbag’ effort every pitch, great things can happen. We really want to get back into the playoffs this year and uphold the legacy that’s been established at ELCA baseball.”

ELCA will welcome back Mason East, who was an All-County selection last season after posting a 2.57 ERA in 49 innings of work. East, Brayden Rush, Jon Paul Wheeler, Jack Buckley and Caleb Mowery all have experience on the mound, and have the makings of a strong staff.

Offensively, ELCA will need to replace the production of Zach Daniels and Tre Douglas. Josh Holt and Johnathan Youngblood will look to fill that void.

Eagle’s Landing High Golden Eagles

Head Coach: Ronney Daniels

2017 Record: 9-13

Key Returners: RHP Jonathan Edwards, INF Jojuan Wimbley, RHP/INF Bryce Dewberry, RHP/OF Cameron Lewis, RHP/OF Kobbe Ross

Key Departures: Andreas Quinones, Taylor Lomack

Outlook: Eagle’s Landing High returns a veteran group of players, led by pitcher Jonathan Edwards and outfielders Bryce Dewberry, Cameron Lewis and Kobbe Ross. Edwards posted a 2.02 ERA in 27 innings for the Eagles, while Lewis hit .480 and Ross hit .415.

Head coach Ronney Daniels says that he also has a young group of players that will be solid and centered around Yamill Quinones, Scott Williams, Tommy Dunn and Cyree Broughton.

Hampton Hornets

Head Coach: Chris Huffman

2017 Record: 7-22

Key Returners: RHP/INF Kyle Heuchert, LHP/OF Jared Lyon, RHP/INF Angel Vivaldo, LHP/OF Chase Renfroe, C Tyler Laberis, C/UTL Griffin Petty, UTL Austin Meritt, INF Braden Moore, LHP/OF Logan Seehafer

Key Departures: Michael Porter, Daiyaan Talley

Outlook: The Hornets continued to improve their record as they jumped from three wins to seven last year — the most in school history.

This year, the Hornets will welcome back the majority of last year’s team, as only Michael Porter and Daiyaan Talley graduated. Head coach Chris Huffman said he’s hoping his program will continue to trend in the right direction.

“Although we lost some very good players last year, we really expect to be competitive this season and fight for a possible playoff spot,” Huffman said. “We have almost all of our pitching back from last year and should be good defensively. We will definitely have to beat teams with pitching and defense but feel this is the year they can put complete games together. These seniors have been playing varsity baseball for all four years now so they have been through all of the ups and downs of a season and know what to expect. They have worked extremely hard this offseason to have a great year.”

Henry County High Warhawks

Head Coach: Doug Lee

2017 Record: 3-18

Key Returners: Dylan Johnson, Xavier Jones, Xavier Thomas, Denarian Jacobs

Key Departures: None

Outlook: Henry County will be young this season after four seniors graduated. The Warhawks will welcome back two seniors and two juniors while the rest of the roster will be sophomores and freshmen.

“We look to build and improve from a year ago,” Doug Lee said. “I also look to see improvement from a year ago from senior Xavier Jones and junior Denarian Jacobs. We have only two seniors and two juniors on the roster. That leaves the balance of a varsity roster to be filled by sophomores and freshmen.”

Locust Grove Wildcats

Head Coach: Stephen Phillips

2017 Record: 28-7 (lost to Wayne County in the Class AAAAA Final Four)

Key Returners: RHP/INF Nolan Crisp, OF Austin Moody, OF Gavin Lee, LHP/OF Luke Welborn

Key Departures: Ethan Lindow, Joah Curry, Clay Shearouse, Colton Bailey, Justin Nicholson, Trevor Sellers, Luke Mays

Outlook: The Locust Grove Wildcats nearly repeated as state champions last season but lost in heart-breaking fashion to Wayne County in the Class AAAAA Final Four in extra innings in Game 3 of the series.

The Wildcats have emerged as one of the top programs in the state, and their non-region schedule reflects that.

“We have really challenged ourselves with our non-region schedule with teams like Brookwood, Buford, Starr’s Mill, North Paulding, Glynn Academy and several more,” Stephen Phillips said. “Due to the inexperience this year, we are hoping these games will help prepare us for the region. Region 4-AAAAA has some very good talent in it and we are going to have to learn early how to compete at a high level. The coaches in this region have done a great job of raising the bar and it makes for a fun year of competition.”

With the 2018 season, the beginning of a new era is on tap for the Wildcats, as 12 seniors graduated from last year’s team, including Henry County Pitcher of the Year Ethan Lindow and Player of the Year Joah Curry. Still, Locust Grove will be in the mix for a fifth straight region title with the return of Nolan Crisp (1.24 ERA, .354 BA), Austin Moody (24 RBIs, 28 runs) and Gavin Lee (.387 BA, 31 RBIs).

Phillips expects several newcomers to earn playing time this season, including Joe Roden and Cole English.

Luella Lions

Head Coach: Tom Kelley

2017 Record: 18-11 (lost to Stephens County in Class AAAA Sweet 16)

Key Returners: OF Jordan Smith, C Chaz Mayfield, C Dom Gover, INF Kyler Cobb, OF Nick Hamilton, RHP/SS Jacob Yarbrough

Key Departures: Jordan Jackson, Josh Chapman, Matt Collins, Kody Ingram, Reid Trussel, Colin Buttler, Lance Threats

Outlook: Luella enters the 2018 season with a new coach in Tom Kelley. He previously worked as the pitching coach at Ola High School and was at Banks County before taking the Luella job when Jordan Freeman stepped down.

Kelley will take over a program that will need to replace eight seniors from last season, including All-County selections Josh Chapman, Matthew Collins and Jordan Jackson. That senior class led the Lions to the Class AAAA Sweet 16 last season.

Luella does have eight players returning who contributed in some capacity last season, and Kelly said the team’s goals are still to reach the postseason.

“Our goal every year is to make the playoffs and develop as a team unit,” Kelley said. “We look to do that through aggressive play with minimal mistakes.”

Ola Mustangs

Head Coach: Beau Edwards

2017 Record: 21-13 (lost to Loganville in Class AAAAA Sweet 16)

Key Returners: RHP Jordan Armstrong, IF Matthew Mamatas, INF Noah Norman, OF/RHP Dalton Thomas, LHP Evan Boyle, OF/LHP Patrick Holloman

Key Departures: Coston Anderson, Jacob Woods

Outlook: The Mustangs reached the Class AAAAA Sweet 16 last season and finished second in Region 4-AAAAA with a relatively young team. Henry County Head Coach of the Year Beau Edwards will only need to replace three seniors, including All-County selections Coston Anderson and Jacob Woods, from last year’s team in 2018.

“Helping our players meet their individual goals usually goes a long way in reaching our program goals,” Edwards said. “You always want to put yourself in a place where you can compete for a region championship, reach the playoffs and finally winning a state championship.”

Ola will welcome back All-County performers Jordan Armstrong (2.45 ERA), Noah Norman (.341 BA), Dalton Thomas (.312 BA) and Matthew Mamatas. Left-handed pitchers Evan Boyle and Patrick Holloman will also play big roles this season.

According to Edwards, Ola’s success hinges on pitching effectively and becoming smarter at the plate and on the base paths.

“Each player has to understand what their individual roles are,” Edwards said.

Strong Rock Christian Academy Patriots

Head Coach: Toby Evans

2017 Record: 19-11 (lost to Athens Christian in Class A-Private Sweet 16)

Key Returners: Trey Shirah, Brayden Edison, Tiger Borom, Chase Reed, Nic Hassan, Kenny Mills

Key Graduates: Coleman Shockley, Noah Campbell

Outlook: Strong Rock Christian may be entering this season with a new head coach, but the Patriots return a veteran roster of players that could, once again, contend for the region title in 5-A Private.

First-year head coach Toby Evans will take over a roster featuring All-County selections Trey Shirah and Kenny Mills. Brayden Edison, Tiger Borom, Chase Reed and Nic Hassan are also expected to contribute.

Stockbridge Tigers

Head Coach: Daniel Greene

2017 Record: 7-16

Key Returners: P/OF Michael Harris, INF/P Justin Hunter, C Isaiah Weaver, P/INF Gabe McKenzie, INF/P Darius Radford, P/OF Michael Harris, UTL/P Ukari Roberts, INF K.J. Brooks

Key Departures: Jamond Farrar

Outlook: Stockbridge High is a program that is trending upwards. In 2016, the Tigers won just three games, but last year Stockbridge notched seven victories, raising the expectation for the upcoming season.

Stockbridge has a strong core of players returning centered around All-County performers Michael Harris and K.J. Brooks. Isaiah Weaver, Justin Hunter and Gabe McKenzie will also play big roles this season.

“Everyone knows what Michael Harris is capable of, but for us to be successful we really need Isaiah Weaver and Justin Hunter to step up in the middle of our lineup and produce,” Brandon Kain, assistant coach said. “K.J. Brooks is a sophomore who was our second leading hitter last year as a freshman and we look for him to continue that success. I also think we may have some sophomores and freshmen who may step up and help us on the mound and in key spots throughout the year.”

The Tigers are playing in a competitive Region 4-AAAAA, which will require the team to be consistent in order to be competitive.

“We have to compete at a high level every day,” Kain said. “We have to maintain our focus throughout a seven inning game and finish. Too many games last year saw us lose focus for one inning that eventually led to us losing several games. We have to throw strikes and make the routine plays in the field.”

Union Grove Wolverines

Head Coach: Allen Franklin

2017 Record: 20-14 (lost to Decatur in Class AAAAA Sweet 16)

Key Returners: INF Jalen Jones, INF Kyle Ayers, C Jake Beach

Key Departures: Drew Martin, Dylan Murphy, Tyler Staton, Jaden Huber, Austin Atkins

Outlook: Union Grove reached the Class AAAAA Sweet 16 last year and must replace five key seniors in Drew Martin, Dylan Murphy, Tyler Stanton, Jaden Huber and Austin Atkins.

This season’s key returners are Jalen Jones, Kyle Ayers and Jake Beach, who are hoping to continue Union Grove’s recent success. Sophomores Joey Purron and Ty Kaufman are also expected to contribute this season.

“The key for us to be successful is for all our guys to play up to their ability,” head coach Allen Franklin said. “Talent is the most important thing in any high school sport and we have some talented players. Now it’s up to our coaches to get the most out of each player.”

Woodland High School

Head Coach: Quinton King

2017 Record: 5-19

Key Returners: OF Dorien Branch, INF Khalil Hasaan, OF Micheal Bray

Key Departures: Chase Jones, Travis Render, Alex Ramos, Chase Akin, Jacob Rourk, Tyler Wheeles, Wallace Corker

Outlook: Last year Woodland was unable to get anything going in region play, finishing with a 2-14 record and at the bottom of the standings. This year, the Wolfpack return with three key players in Dorien Branch, Khalil Hasaan and Michael Bray.

Head coach Quinton King said that he’s looking forward to competing this season.

Sports Editor

Graduated from South Carolina State University in 2015. Been with the Henry Herald and Clayton News in two capacities as a sports journalist and interim sports editor.

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