They are why Excel Christian Academy head baseball coach Michael Adcock has his team aiming for the state playoffs this season.
"We're getting ready, doing the best we can," Adcock said, noting the baseball team, which kicks off seasonal play Monday with a doubleheader, has had its full complement of players for two weeks now. The Eagles were without the service of the basketball team members until then.
This edition of the Eagles not only got some of its leaders off the hardwood -- Zach daCamara and Mason Butt -- but also the team's basketball coach, who played minor league baseball and was an accomplished pitcher.
DaCamara and Butt are two of the team's four seniors -- the others are Alex Berrey and Winston Smith -- and Adcock believes they are another of the keys to determining just how successful the Eagles are this season.
"We return pretty much all nine of our starters," Adcock said. "It's also a big plus to have our four seniors and it's also a plus when your freshmen and sophomores from a year ago have another year of experience to bring to the playing field."
Adcock said the Eagles have been putting out a lot of effort and making some progress. "We've been practicing hard. We're far beyond where we've usually been at this time of the season."
He is optimistic that pitching will be one of the areas of strength for the Eagles this team.
"I think we're going to be a lot stronger in our pitching staff," Adcock said. "Mason Butt, Alex Willingham and Zach daCamara are returning and should help us."
He said a new arm is John Hood, a junior, who appears ready to contribute, and Alex Berrey is coming back from a hand injury and is working through rehab and should play.
The coach said Lane Blackwell, Morgan Smith and Dustin Parrot will see action as relievers. "The pitching staff appears well rounded and is shaping up."
Adcock said the staff is being coached by Jon-Michael Nickerson, who is Excel's head basketball coach but who also has excelled as one of the boys of spring.
"Coach Nickerson's got quite a background in pitching," Adcock said. "He pitched in the Marlins organization, spending three years with them."
That doesn't include his high school and college years.
Adcock said the return of so many experienced players also should provide solid play behind the team's strong arms. "We should be more solid defensively and play with more consistency."
That should start with the team's four seniors, daCamara at shortstop, Butt in right field, Berrey at first base and Winston Smith in center field.
"They will anchor our defense going onto their fourth year," he said. "They are not only leaders physically but emotionally, too. We'll have as much success as our leaders can carry us."
The Eagles also have experience up the middle, with juniors Phillip Looney entering his third year at second and Dustin Parrott recording his third year behind the plate.
"We should have a pretty strong defense up the middle," he said. "If you're going to have success, you have to be strong there."
Even with the experienced players back, Adcock isn't taken anything for granted. "All in all, it's still a tough region we're in."
Excel's likely four toughest regional foes will be familiar to fans who follow Region 6-A play.
"The way the region is shaping up with returning key players, it looks like Mt. Paran and Darlington probably will be the two top-tier teams with Walker and Bremen probably also competing for the top four slots.
"Mt. Paran probably will have an advantage with their pitching staff. They've got a couple of dominant lefties and right-handers who complement them. They have a very strong staff."
He is hopeful Excel is in there fighting for one of those four top spots, too.
The challenge for Excel's coaches will be to meld their experienced players into a team that knows how to win.
"It's why you play the game," Adcock said. "The ball can bounce your way any given day. Baseball is a game of inches and seconds. Experience is on our side in that we've closed the gap in the inches and seconds that separate us from other teams in our regions.
"Our short-term goal is to get off to a good start and earn one of the top four playoff spots. I think that's a reasonable goal given our experience and the attitude and work ethic our players have put forth so far to prepare for this season."
2012 Excel baseball roster
1 Phillip Looney Jr.
2 Alex Berrey Sr.
3 Lane Blackwell So.
4 Luke Blackwell Fr.
6 Winston Smith Sr.
7 Dustin Parrot Jr.
8 Morgan Smith So.
10 Param Patel Fr.
11 Zach daCamara Sr.
23 John Hood Jr.
24 Alex Willingham Jr.
33 Mason Butt Jr.
2012 Excel baseball season
March 5 Yeshiva 4 p.m.
Yeshiva 5:45 p.m.
March 8 at Model 5:30 p.m.
March 13 at Bremen 5 p.m.
March 15 at Darlington 5 p.m.
March 16 Trion 5 p.m.
March 17 at Walker 1 p.m.
March 19 at Pepperell 5 p.m.
March 20 North Cobb 5 p.m.
March 23 at Bowdon 5:30 p.m.
March 26 Gordon Lee 5 p.m.
March 27 Mt. Zion 4:30 p.m.
March 29 at Mt. Paran 3:30 p.m.
at Mt. Paran 5:45 p.m.
April 5 Bremen 5 p.m.
April 10 at Trion 5:30 p.m.
April 13 Walker 5 p.m.
April 16 North Cobb 4:30 p.m.
April 17 Bowdon 5 p.m.
April 20 at Gordon Lee 5 p.m.
April 23 at Mt. Zion 5 p.m.
April 27 Darlington 5 p.m.