Parkview baseball coach Chan Brown was complaining this week that his team had turned only one double play in seven games. The Panthers turned 37 during their state championship season of 2011.
That’s not a sign of shaky defense. Parkview middle infielders Edwin Arias and Jeff Ronporin have college baseball in their futures. This is just a coach with a little less to worry about than most.
Parkview returned eight of nine starters and its top four pitchers and is 5-2 this year, losing to Class AAA powers Columbus and Cartersville.
‘’Obviously there are expectations when you return that many players, and there’s pressure that comes with it,’’ Brown said. “We’re still trying to find that mix. But we’re taking the same philosophy as last year. We’re trying to win every inning we can.’’
Parkview’s most celebrated player is All-American pitcher/first baseman Matt Olson, who hit 17 home runs and won eight games on the mound last season. He has signed with Vanderbilt and likely will be drafted high in the June MLB Draft.
‘’He’s good in all three aspects,’’ Brown said. “He’s great at first base, only three errors in three years. He’s a great pitcher for us. From a hitting standpoint, he’s the catalyst inour lineup. He’s one of those guys that’s a special kid.’’
Others who have signed or committed to Division 1 colleges are senior LF/P Jack Esmonde (Georgia), junior CF Josh Hart (Georgia Tech), junior C Jarrett Freeland (Georgia) and sophomore P Mac Marshall (Georgia). Junior RF Ryan Blanton has an offer from Vanderbilt, and SS Arias, 2B Ronporin, P Jesse Foster and OF A.J. Davis have signed with smaller schools. (Marshall was named this week as the No. 24 sophomore in the country by MaxPreps.)
The roster and pedigree have earned Parkview several national rankings. On March 28-31, Parkview will play in the first USA National High School Inviational in Cary, N.C., along with fellow Georgia teams Brookwood and Columbus.
Here’s a look at how Georgia’s other four defending state champions are looking this spring:
Marist (AAAA) – A tough schedule has something to do with Marist’s 2-6-1 record, but it’s more than that. Junior catcher Anthony Sherlag is the only returning starter from a team that graduated 15 seniors, including state player of the year Brandon Leibrandt (13-0, 0.71 ERA). Most of the team’s best pitchers are sophomores. But the talent is there. Marist has played close games with state-ranked Cartersville (4-3), Lassiter (3-2), Brookwood (2-1) and Parkview (3-1).
Columbus (AAA) – Columbus (7-0, ranked No. 4 by ESPN Rise) is led by two Georgia signees in pitcher/outfielder Kyle Carter and pitcher/shortstop J.T. Phillips. Both are likely to be drafted in June. Middle infielder Josh Lester has signed with Missouri, and third baseman Spencer Draws is headed to Air Force. Carter, Phillips, Lester and left fielder Ryan Lang played on the Columbus Little League World Series champions of 2006. In the 7-6 victory over Parkview this week, Carter entered in the seventh inning to close a 7-4 lead but gave up two runs and had a runner at third with no outs. He got a strikeout, a lineout and fly out to end the game.
Buford (AA) - The Wolves graduated ace pitcher Josh Heddinger to Georgia Tech and eight other seniors, but the 3-7 start is still surprising. Lefty Sam Clay, who will join Heddinger at Tech next season, is back. The other top returner is 1B/P Troy Herterick, who hit .454 last season.
Hebron Christian (A) – Hebron (6-1) lost its No. 1 ranking in the coaches poll because of a 7-6 loss to Darlington (7-0) on Feb. 25, but probably remains the team to beat in A. Pitchers Mason Felt (signed with Oregon State) and Jordan Hillyer (Kennesaw State) were 18-1 together with 196 strikeouts in 111 innings last season. Hillyer also hit 16 home runs. Six starters return from the team that won Hebron’s first state title in any sport in 2011.