Mount Paran Christian’s baseball team made the Class A second round last season and returned almost every key contributor, but the team’s prospects didn’t resonate statewide until this week when the Kennesaw private school beat No. 1-ranked Darlington 20-6.
Sophomore shortstop Jake Palomaki was 3-for-4, and Mount Paran (10-1 and ranked No. 10 in the coaches poll) scored nine runs in the second inning and had 14 hits overall.
Beating a quality team wasn’t a shock to Mount Paran coach Harvey Cochran.
‘’It reaffirmed what we thought,’’ Cochran said. ‘’You never know how 17-year-olds are going to play, but the talent and ability is there.’’
The hitting was outstanding against Darlington, but Cochran says it’s the depth of the pitching staff that defines the team.
The ace has been sophomore lefthander Andrew Maxwell, who is 4-0 and is hitting over .400. Juniors Logan Haner and Jordan Versteeg are both tall right-handers who got a late start because of playing basketball into the state quarterfinals. Haner pitched a 1-0 victory over Florida Christian, a team with two University of Miami signees.
Cochran says he has up to eight quality pitchers. ‘‘I’ve never had pitching like this, and I’ve been doing this a long time,’’ he said.
There is concern about one, Robert Wilson, a junior who will miss time with a torn labrum that was diagnosed this week.
It’s a young team. The only senior is right fielder Tyler Crace. Mount Paran’s other starting outfielders are juniors Colton Cannon in left field and Matt McKenzie in center.
The infield has junior Ryan Murphy at first, junior Tyler Flowers at second, Talamaki at short and sophomore Landon Faulkner at third. Will Schnure, a junior, is the catcher.
It’s not a powerful team. Murphy is the only everyday player over 185 pounds, and Flowers has the team’s only home run in 11 games.
Mount Paran’s coaching staff also is unusual with five coaches who have run programs at some point in their careers. Pitching coach Dave McDonald was the long-time coach at Wheeler. Kenny Palmer, a former coach at South Cobb, was one of Cochran’s assistants at North Cobb. Jim Rissmiller has been a head coach in Virginia. Kyle Reese, who played for Cochran at North Cobb, is a former head coach at St. Francis.
Mount Paran plays at Region 6 rival Walker (7-4) on Thursday.