New-look Hawks ready to begin season
by Doug Gorman
The Heritage Hawks baseball team has some big shoes to fill heading into the 2014 season.
After being hit hard by graduation, the Hawks are trying to rebuild their team that advanced to the first round before falling to Brookwood Academy in the GISA Class playoffs a year ago,
Gone from last season team are six starters, including center fielders Candler Rich, catcher Luke Crook, pitcher/catcher Sam Pulsipher as well as fellow graduating seniors Tyler Nix, Joe Bonner and Patrick McKee, all of which played key roles.
On top of those are the emotions of dealing with the loss of third baseman Tyler Henson, who was killed in a car accident shortly after the end of the 2013 season.
“We are replacing some really good baseball players that’s for sure,” said Hawks head coach Lynn Huffstickler. “Tyler’s death hit us hard.”
For the Hawks, it starts with pitching.
“Pitching is what is going to keep us in games,” Huffstickler said. “We have some experienced arms coming back.”
Mack Wilkins and Brian McKinney bring experience back to the mound and will get the ball in key situations for the Hawks, but the veteran coach won’t be limited when it comes to who he sends to the mound.
Junior Luke Smith and Logan Betts will also figure into the team’s rotation this season.
Left-handed pitchers Brad Macke and Ben Cox will also see time on the mound.
One of the biggest voids will be in the Hawks middle infield where Nix and Bonner earned All-Region honors at shortstop and second base, respectively after being four-year contributors. Nix was also one of the area’s hardest-throwing pitchers regardless of high school association.
Ready to step in at second base is Glavin Groover, coming off a basketball sea- son that ended in the GISA Class AAA Elite 8.
Jake Smith and Peyton Henson, meanwhile, are vying to replace Nix at shortstop while McKinney is a leading candidate to play third base when not pitching while in a mix with Luke Smith, also just returning from basketball season.
Brad Macke, Ben Cox and Matthew Burns are set to play in outfield for the Hawks.
There is a three way bat- tle going on land job as the Hawks starting catcher as Kirby Arnold, Chase Evans and Tristan Stoffle are all expected to compete for the Hawks catching duties.
Jay Macke and Trevor Henson are candidates to play first for the Hawks.
Expected to bring plenty of firepower to the Hawks is designated hitter Patrick Patzer.
Among the teams expected to continue for the GISA Class AAA region title along with the Hawks are Dominion Christian and Loganville Christian, while crosstown Trinity should be much improved after bringing back nearly its entire roster.
Success is nothing new to the Heritage baseball program over Huffstickler’s 12 years. They’ve included a state title in 2010 and included two more trips to the Final Four in 2008 and 2009.
The Heritage coach points the reasons to those who have surrounded him during that span.
“We have been successful because we have also had some really assistant good coaches and great players,” he said.