Published Sunday, March 03, 2013
By DOUG GORMAN
Success is nothing new to The Heritage School’s baseball team.
After finishing the season with a 21-6 record and a trip to the GISA Final Four in 2012, the Hawks are ready to see if they can continue the school’s baseball tradition at the highest level. Just so long as Mother Nature cooperates.
The Hawks were scheduled to play in a round robin on Saturday at their home field against Flint River and Brentwood were cancelled because of cold weather.
“We are anxious to get the season going, but there is no need to get somebody hurt, and that could have happened on a day like today,” said head coach Lynn Huffstickler, who will guide his squad up a division from AA a year ago.
This year, Heritage School makes the jump to Class AAA this season with the same level of anticipation that has made it a state power of the past few years, including a Class AA state title in 2010.
So far, Heritage School's teams haven’t had any problems adjusting to their jump up in classification.
This fall, the football team, played for the Class AAA state championship, losing by eight points to Deerfield-Windsor in Albany. The Hawks boys basketball also made the Class AAA state playoffs.
Many of those same athletes will be on the baseball diamond in hopes of helping Heritage School return to the playoffs.
“Baseball might be a little tougher for us,” said Huffstickler. “Dominion Christian is in that East Cobb area, and Loganville Christian also has plenty of tradition, but we feel like we have the team that is going to be able to win the region again.”
Despite being hit hard by graduation, the Weber School could also challenge the other teams in the region after winning the league last year.
Heritage School has plenty of reason to be excited about the season that started earlier this week with a 15-0 decision over Harvester.
“We hit the ball early in the game and just kind of coasted,” Huffsticker said.
The Hawks bring back eight players who earned All-Region honors a year ago, including junior pitchers Mack Wilkins and Brian McKinney.
McKinney and Wilkins, both of whom throw in the 80 mph range, are the cornerstones of a deep pitching staff for the Hawks.
Tyler Nix will also see time on the mound for the Hawks. The senior’s best pitch is his curveball, but he also throws a fastball that has been clocked in the 80s.
The Hawks bullpen will be manned by Joe Bonner, Luke Crook and lef-handed pitcher Brad Mckee.
The Hawks also return depth to the first base spot.
Crook and Sam Pulsipher share the duties with one catching and the other playing first depending on how Huffstickler pencils them into the lineup. Crook earned All-County honors last year.
One of Heritage School’s strongest spots is going to be its middle infield as senior second baseman Joe Bonner and Nix, at short, return after earning All-Region honors in 2012.
Tyler Henson is back at third base for the Hawks.
The Hawks also bring a pair of all-region outfielders back to the lineup.
Candler Rich, whose speed on the football field helped him land a scholarship to Yale, expects to be one of the GISA’s top outfielders. His ability to track down flies in center field helped him earn All-County honors a year ago.
“He is hurting a little bit right now, but when he gets back in the lineup he should have another great year,” Huffstickler said.
Left-fielder Patrick McKee is also back after an all-region season in 2012.
“He has a really good glove and had a solid season a year ago,” Huffsticker said.
Brad Macke is slated to play in right for the Hawks.
The Hawks return to action Tuesday at home against former region rival Arlington Christian at 4 p.m., and will play a makeup against Flint River on Wednesday.