Feb. 20—Finding enough good pitchers to lead teams into ultra-competitive region play will be the challenge as Cobb County baseball teams take the field this spring.
With the coronavirus pandemic shutting things down last year shortly after they began, teams missed out on a year of developing potential starters and relief pitchers at the high school level. The development may give hitters and advantage early in the season as rotations get settled, but teams will have to find three quality starters by the time region play begins.
"Last year we had a lot of young pitchers who lost out on a lot of experience on the high school level," Walton coach Shane Amos said. "Many of those players play different positions in travel ball, so they lost a year on the mound."
Even some of those pitchers who were in the mix on their travel ball teams may not have gotten as many innings as they would have liked.
"Travel ball is great," Allatoona coach Keith Hansen said. "But a lot of guys only go three or four innings because they may be asked to pitch again later that weekend. They don't get the chance to throw deep into games."
For the Buccaneers, Hanson said that while his pitchers still need to be developed, he's lucky to have a number of quality arms in Logan McGuire, Fisher Paulsen, Hunter Paulsen and Landon Perkins among others, some of whom may have the opposite travel ball issue.
"I have two very good pitchers who in travel ball didn't hit very often," Hansen said. "They are going to be counted on to hit this spring."
Still, a bevy of arms may make Allatoona one of the preseason favorites in what could be the best baseball region in the state. Region 6AAAAAA will have the Pope, which has played for a state title in each of the last four seasons and won in 2017 and 2018, Lassiter, Kennesaw Mountain and Wheeler dropping down from Class AAAAAAA and Kell moving up from Class AAAAA to go along with Sprayberry and the Bucs. That's seven perennial playoff teams that will be competing for four spots in the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge every time out," Pope coach Jeff Rowland said. "Our team and I are looking forward to it."
One other unique aspect to Region 6AAAAAA will be the fact that for the first time the Hansens will face each other as region opponents when Allatoona meets up with Kennesaw Mountain, coached by George Hansen, this season.
"I want my brother to win every game," said Keith Hansen, who is scheduled to face his brother for the first time this year on March 22. "Except for two games each season. now."
It doesn't get any easier with the new regions in Class AAAAAAA either. Region 3AAAAAAA will be highlighted having three traditional Cobb County powers in Walton, Harrison and Hillgrove, the 2019 state runner-up. In addition, North Cobb is a perennial playoff team and North Paulding is coming off a 2019 season in which it advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
"I think this region is just as good as its ever been," said Amos whose team left another powerful region with Etowah, Woodstock, Roswell and Lassiter. "With Harrison, Hillgrove and North Paulding, this region is just as tough."
Campbell was the lone Cobb team to make the playoffs out of the current Region 2AAAAAAA in 2019. Newnan won the region and advanced to the elite eight. McEachern joins the region for the first time this season and will fight for one of the four playoff spots with Pebblebrook and East Coweta.
In Class A Private, Mount Paran Christian and North Cobb Christian each made the playoffs in 2019. They should have another good chance to make the post season as they join Walker, Darlington and Christian Heritage as members of the new-look Region 7A.