Prep Baseball Preview: Indians hope success is in the cards

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Bryce Ingram could play a big role this year for East Coweta as a sophomore. The third baseman/outfielder hit a home run in his first at bat of the year after playing late in the season as a freshman for the Indians.

By CHRIS GOLTERMANN cgoltermann@newnan.com High School baseball coaches are not unlike poker players. And longtime East Coweta head coach Franklin DeLoach has surely done his share of gambling here and there on diamonds over the last 10-plus years with the Indians during games. Each spring, coaches throughout the state find themselves with an entirely new set of cards - or sets or arms in baseball terms. Sometimes the hand that's dealt is powerful enough to carry four aces.
Most of the time, however, it's all about the shuffle of the deck. "That's what I love about public high school baseball," DeLoach said. "Each year you shuffle the hand you're dealt. You can't just go out and look for someone to fill a position. I know in the last 11 years that (assistant coach) Brandon Blair and I have been together, there's been something to work on. That's the challenge of it." The East Coweta head coach chose his words carefully when describing the latest challenge. Since he has been at the school, DeLoach and his staff have transformed the program not just into a yearly state contender, but a factory for producing college ready talent. Last year's team, which included graduating pitchers Kevin Werner, Morgan Pittman, K.C. Lorow as well as catcher Michael Hughes was no exception during a 20-11 season that ended with another trip to the Class AAAAA state playoffs. "As of right now, we don't really have that one player who could draw a college scout," DeLoach said. "We may not be that same caliber team as in the past. Can we be as talented as we have been? I've told them I think they can. But there's work to do." Unlike East Coweta's 2010 and 2011 lineups, though, there won't be a fireballer to lead the way. The Indians had been spoiled by the pitching prowess of both Werner - who became synonymous with no-hit efforts en route to signing with Mercer - and Los Angeles Angels prospect Cam Bedrosian, a first-round draft pick two years ago. "I think a key is a lot of it comes down to learning to become better teammates. Don't get me wrong, these guys get along great," DeLoach said. "But a lot of baseball is what do I need to do to help us come together as a team." The Indians gave seven pitchers an inning apiece to work during Friday's scrimmage loss to McIntosh, most with successful results Each allowed at least one walk, but also recorded a strikeout on a night where the Chiefs scored four unearned runs among six East Coweta errors. The high school baseball season locally gets under way on Monday with Northgate hosting Troup at noon. The Indians officially open the 2012 season on Tuesday at home for a 2 p.m. game against Sandy Creek -- the first of three games during winter break. East Coweta travels to Whitewater on Thursday and hosts South Forsyth Friday night. Newnan also begins its season Tuesday at home, with the Cougars opening against Lovejoy at 5:30 p.m. Austin Dohrn, a 6-3 senior righthander, may have the best chance of becoming East Coweta's ace this season after pitching the deciding game of last year's second-round playoff series. Fellow senior Austin Parmer, another righty, followed with a 16-pitch inning where he allowed a leadoff single and had another runner reach off an error, before recording three straight outs. DeLoach threw four seniors in the first four innings of Friday's game, going to lefty Zach Tatham and then Dylan Taylor. Juniors Brandon Ruston, Zach McCurry and Casey Lennoch, all among a large class of 14 11th graders, one of the largest that East Coweta's baseball program has fielded, pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh. "It's a big junior class. Most of them played JV baseball last year," DeLoach said. Four of them posted consecutive singles in a three-run first inning for the Indians on Friday. Cole Amtmann can play either corner outfield spot and showed his arm strength by relaying a bullet to the plate on a deep fly with the bases loaded in the seventh. Geremy Walton started in center field and had a first-pitch RBI single to left in his first at bat, while Ryan Goodman and Jon Banks rotated in at first. Goodman, who went 2-for-3, was a contributor with Amtmann and Walton during last year's state playoffs as sophomores. Another junior, Travis Williams, was thrust into playing shortstop during the latter half of the 2011 season and will again be among four middle infielders vying for time. Among them, Tyler Horner is the only senior. Juniors Tim Manning and Derek Kneuer rotated at second base. "Those four guys are going to have to hold it down," DeLoach said. McCurry and catcher Josh Poole were also in the starting lineup, with Poole having to fill in when Hughes was lost for the playoffs. Both Manning and 6-4 junior Jacob Mann could also work their way into seeing time on the mound this year. The team's top hitter on Friday, meanwhile, was sophomore Bryce Ingram, who hit out of the No. 2 spot in the order and showcased both speed and power. He belted a line-drive homer off the foul pole in his first at-bat of the year and came a stride shy of legging out a triple in his next to last at bat. Ingram may give East Coweta added flexibility should he need to play left field. Amtmann could shift to right should the Indians want to go for a more power-driven batting order. "It's a process and that's just part of that process," DeLoach said of the early season. "Right now, we've got a chance to work on getting better during non-region play and we'll see how things go from there."


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