Cartersville High head coach Stuart Chester said he and his coaching staff have a lot to pick from this year as it tries to fashion a winning pitching rotation with which to compete in Region 6-AAA.
A year ago the baseball team finished 24-9 with a 13-1 record in Region 6-AAA, losing to eventual state winner Columbus in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
Those playoffs now are just a distant memory as the Canes focus on a new season.
"We think one of our strengths will be pitching," Chester said. "We have yet to determine a No. 1 pitcher or a starter or anything, but we have a lot of good pitchers to pick from.
"On the mound, it's good to have two lefties like Ben Dittmer and Sam Howard. Sam had a great off season and picked up some velocity. Ben's always been Ben. He's going to get you out. He's like a painter, going inside and outside [on hitters]. He doesn't walk people."
Chester said there's a lot of variety in the other pitchers who, along with Dittmer and Howard, will be considered for the various pitching roles.
"Corey Collum is back and he has some experience," he said. "Drew Flatford has developed a great slider, a great out pitch. Teigh Dooley is healthy, Kendall Hawkins is bigger and stronger with experience, Hunter Horton is back from an injury and Hunter Cochran also is back."
He said newcomers Trey Graves and Jeremy Tyra also will be considered as well as Conner Justus, who he said "can probably play any position on the field."
Chester said the coaching staff has its hands full, so to speak. "We have a lot of arms. That's important when you get to a three-game series or when you're playing three region games a week."
This edition of the Canes also is expected to make teams work to get their runners across the plate.
"I think defensively we'll be solid. We should have a little above-average speed," Chester said. "We return a lot of starters from last year: Taylor Wilson, Ben Venters, Connor Justus, Corey Collum and Luke Daniel. We also are getting some guys back who were injured: [first baseman] Colin Bennett and [third baseman] Harris Battle."
He said a contingent of younger players also will be getting a crack at the starting lineup. "Zack Ross, an outfielder, had a good offseason, Kendall Hawkins, an infielder, and Asa Williams, a catcher, also had a good offseason."
Chester said the result should be good players for the Canes. "We have some experience and they are solid defensive baseball players."
The coaches will try to determine who fits where and what's best for the team, with a starting lineup hopefully coming by March 11.
Chester said offense is something of a question mark at this time and added the Canes also must develop a winning team chemistry.
"We can't tell that until we get them in the fire," he added.
Chester said even though the Canes are returning seven starters from last season, there's no guarantee those seven will keep those roles.
He said all Cane starting positions are up for grabs.
"We're wide open," he said. "It's anybody's ball game."
He said the team goals remain the same but noted they are high every year. "Our first goal as individuals and as a team is that we get better every day at practice. Our next goal is to take one game at a time.
"The big picture is to win the region and the state championship."
The coach said the team tries to put itself into position by improving daily to reach its other goals.
"I think they realize we can reach these goals because we did win the region last year and we got beat by the team that did win it all," he said. "They understand that all these things are stepping stones and you have to reach them to beat teams like Columbus."
Cartersville opens its season Saturday on the road at Lassiter at 1 p.m., then plays Monday at 5:55 p.m. at Parkview.
The team was to have started its season tonight by hosting Northside-Columbus.
That game was postponed as a show of support for the Cartersville Lady Purple Hurricanes, who will host the first round of the state high school basketball playoffs tonight at the school gym.
The Lady Canes will play Stone Mountain at 6 o'clock.
The Northside-Columbus baseball game is to be rescheduled later in the season.