nd weekend of the season. After opening up week 1 vs. 2021 playoff participant McEachern, Pope will have to get through Roswell and Effingham County before taking on perennial contender Cambridge and then the gauntlet of the Dugout tournament which includes Lambert who is a preseason top 50 ranked team nationally, Franklin County who is fresh off a state runner up finish in 2021 and Norcross who was region champions last season. The Hounds will contend with other powerhouse programs in non region games such as Walton, Harrison, Milton, North Forsyth, Dunwoody, and Etowah to prepare for the Region 6-AAAAAA grind which will pit the Hounds against the likes of State runner up Lassiter, Final 4 participant and reigning region champion Allatoona, as well as the dangerous KMHS Mustangs, Kell Longhorns, Wheeler Wildcats, Sprayberry Yellow Jackets, Osborne Cardinals, and South Cobb Eagles.
Fortunately for the Hounds, 18 players from the 2021 Final 4 squad return to lead the way to take on the challenge ahead including 6 position player starters and 2 of the 3 starting pitchers from a season ago. The 2022 team is headlined by the senior pitching duo of preseason All State selections Dawson Campbell (Lander commit) and Jack Butler (Georgia State commit). The Hounds offense also returns two preseason All State Hitters with dynamic middle infielder Carson Kerce (Georgia Tech commit) and 1b/3b Kent Schmidt (Winthrop commit) helping to pace the Pope scoring attack. Pope has plenty of talent throughout the rest of the roster and they will have to fill some big shoes in the starting lineup and pitching rotation with the loss of star hitter James Tibbs (Florida State), shortstop Riley Frost (UNG), OF / P Quinn Kerce and All State pitcher selection Peyton Cariaco (Kent State University).
Although the loss of 9 game winner Peyton Cariaco stings, the Hounds return 60% of their innings pitched from the 2021 squad. The return of 6 game winner Jack Butler (2.7ERA) and 6 game winner Dawson Campbell (2.8 ERA) will cushion the blow from the loss of the 2021 senior class. 2022 junior Carson Kerce also returns after posting 4 wins of his own with a team best .65 ERA in 22 innings of work last season and senior Jon Strydom (Berry Commit) posted a 2.7 ERA in 13 innings of work in 2021. The other 2 returning pitchers from the 2021 team senior Marco Cabrera (Berry commit) and senior Grady Bivens will see their workload increase this season to hopefully pick up some of the innings left behind from the graduation of the 2021 class. The rest of the Pope pitching staff is unproven at the varsity level but EXTREMELY talented and should be fun to watch as they make their immediate impact. Senior Luke Tener, juniors Calvin Koo, Tyler Urowsky, Nate Levine, Blythe Keisler, Logan Rapp and sophomores Jack Myers, Andrew Nelms, and Dawson Jones round out a deep and talented staff for the Greyhounds.