Large group of returners poised to lead Vikings

by Doug Gorman

Northgate’s baseball team hasn’t been immune to the wintry weather as veteran head coach Greg Hamilton’s Vikings head into the start of the 2014 baseball season today with just six practices under its belt.

“We have been able to hit and throw inside a little bit, but like everybody else, we are behind schedule,” he said.

Limited practice time won’t stop Northgate from getting things started with today’s 1 p.m. scrimmage at Troup.

Both teams play for real when the Tigers travel north on I-85 for Monday’s official season opener at noon.

The Vikings follow by hosting East Coweta at home on Wednesday at noon.

A year ago, Northgate finished the season with a 19-9 record before falling to Hardaway in three games in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

Four pitchers from last year’s roster — Robert Massenburg, Zach Schmidts, Matt Farmakis and Jonathan Fleckenstein — are among a large group of seniors lost to graduation from last year’s roster.

They include three position players from 2013 in catcher Spencer Perry, second baseman Tyler Dahlberg and outfielder Jeffrey Ginn. Perry was a starter before suffering a season-ending injury while Dahlberg and Ginn each earned Newnan Times-Herald All-County honors.

At least 10 returners saw ample playing time in 2013, however, including All-County selection James Poropatic (.416 avg., 22 RBIs). Also back in the Viking outfield are Armond Upshaw and Andrew Burden.

Shortstop Buddy Green and third baseman Chase Allen each appeared in over 20 games last year while among returning infielders. Joining them is Blake Helton, who has the ability to play both middle-infield spots and should improve on last year’s 38 varsity at bats.

Connor Wilson, who also came off the bench, is among first basemen vying for playing time with Dylan Thomas and Angelo Rivera.

Jonathan Hamilton, who moved into a starting job when Perry went down, is among three catchers on the roster. They include newcomers Kyle Feldbauer and Parker Baxter, a freshman.

One of the bigger question marks is finding replacements on the mound where Green, Upshaw and senior Blake Whitney are the only Vikings returning that made more than two appearances.

Whitney went 4-0 in eight games while finishing with a 2.36 ERA over 26 ? innings.

Andrew Simpson, Chad Green and Miles McDevitt having a chance to contribute this season.

Northgate enters the season after finishing 15-5 in Region 4-AAAAA in fourth place, but just two losses behind champion Starr’s Mill.

Northgate and Starr’s Mill split the regular season meetings, with the Vikings, winning 3-2 in the first game, but falling 5-0 in the second game.

Whitewater and McIntosh each finished the region standings 16-4, just one-game ahead of Northgate. The Wildcats reached the Class AAAAA semifinals before losing to Greenbrier while the Chiefs are coming off one of its most successful seasons in school history.

Last season, Northgate split its two games with Whitewater, but lost twice to McIntosh, including 6-5 in the final game with the Chiefs in 10 innings..

“We are just ready to get the season started,” “Hamilton said. “Everybody is in the same boat with the weather, at least we hope.”

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