Published Saturday, February 16, 2013
By DOUG GORMAN
Northgate fans shouldn’t expect to hear the word “rebuilding” coming out of the mouth of head coach Greg Hamilton.
Despite losing some key players to graduation, including pitchers Ty Alvey and Jesse Copeland, plus a solid middle infield in the form of The Newnan Times Herald Player of the Year second baseman Cody Bevil and shortstop Clay Thomas, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare as the Vikings gear up for Monday afternoon’s season opener at Troup County.
Northgate enters the new season trying to build on last year’s 17-14 overall record that included a two-game sweep of Lovejoy in the first round of the state tournament before falling to Pope in three games in the second round.
Veteran pitching returns to the mound this year in the form of Robert Massenburg. He finished the 2012 season as the team’s No. 1 pitcher and he has locked down that spot again this year.
Jack Fleckenstein and Zack Schmidts also return. All three pitchers are seniors and bring plenty of experience to the mound.
Spencer Perry returns with experience behind the plate as catcher for the Vikings. He brings plenty of power to the team’s line up. The senior can also play first base when needed, a position he is projected to play in college.
Sophomores Blake Helton and Brody Lloyd will handle the shortstop and second base spots, respectively.
Junior Buddy Green and senior Tyler Dahlberg can also play of the middle infield spots. Dahlberg is still with the basketball team as it gets ready to play at the state tournament for the first time in school history next week.
Jonathan Hamilton can also play some in emergency situations.
“We should be able to play defense,” Greg Hamilton said. “If we can’t play defense, we are going to have a long year.”
Hamilton calls this Vikings' squad one of the best he has ever had.
“We have six or seven guys we can run out there,” he said. “These are guys who can compete at the varsity level and not hurt you.”
Masenburg should be penciled in as the Vikings rightfielder. James Poropatic is expected to play in centerfield, Andrew Burton in left field.
Connor Wilson, Jeff Ginn and the Schmidts — Zach and Jordan — are also expected to get their share of playing time in the outfield. The Vikings are also waiting on Armond Upshaw to arrive following basketball season.
Northgate doesn’t expect any easy games once it gets into Region 4-AAAAA competition. Unlike some of the other sports in the region, the league is not subdivided for baseball. Everybody plays home and home.
Whitewater, Starr’s Mill, Ola and Union Grove should be among the team’s challenging Northgate. However, Hamilton looks for Forest Park and Mundy’s Mill to be competitive.
“There are just no easy games once you get into the region,” he said.
Northgate and Troup County played in a modified scrimmage on Friday night, but since the two squads will meet again Monday afternoon at noon to open the 2013 season, neither squad showed their hand.
The Vikings won 13-6 on the scoreboard with both teams using most of the pitching staff. Just about everybody got to get at least one at bat.
(To view photos from the scrimmage, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports for the Photo Gallery.)
Northgate finished the afternoon with 14 hits. Chase Allen had the hottest bat of the night for the Vikings finishing with two doubles. He just missed a grand slam in the game, ripping a double off the wall for two runs.
Massenburg also had an RBI in the first inning to get the scoring started for the Vikings. Blake Helton also had an double in the game to account for some of the offensive highlights.
Blake Whitney, Carter Sheheane, Jordan Schmidts, and Blake Green each spent time on the mound for the Vikings during Friday’s scrimmage.
“We were trying to get everybody some game situations,” said Hamilton. “We have a large sophomore class. A lot of those guys had never been in a varsity game, so we wanted to get them some experience, go out there and earn their wings in a game that didn’t count as much.”
Northgate’s schedule features five non-region games to start the season.
After Monday’s season-opener, the squad plays contests at East Coweta on Wednesday and then at Sandy Creek on Thursday. All three games this week start at noon.
Other non-region contests include home games against Northside-Columbus (Feb. 25) and Woodward Academy (Feb 27).
From there, region play begins against Ola Mustangs on March 6.