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Pope Baseball 2022 Prospectus

2022 marks the final season that Pope baseball will compete in the all-Cobb County region 6 – AAAAAA as the 2023 season will see Pope competing in an all new region. The Hounds finished 2nd in region 6 during the 2021 season posting a 13-3 region mark and advancing to the State Final 4 for the 6th consecutive season. Overall, the Hounds posted a 29-12 record winning 3 playoff series and capturing 2 series wins on the road which were the 1st road series wins for Pope since the 2015 season.

In each of the three 2021 playoff series the Hounds mettle was tested as the team was forced to play in decisive game 3’s in all of their best of 3 playoff series wins. In round 1 the Hounds were pushed to the brink before being able to advance past Riverwood in a home series, in round 2 the Hounds won a hard fought series vs. Buford on the road (the nation’s #1 ranked team at the time of the series) and in the 3rd round the Hounds survived the 260 mile trip to Guyton Georgia in a closely contested quarterfinal matchup.

 

If the Hounds hope to ascend to the heights of the 2021 team they will have their work cut out for them as another challenging schedule faces the team this season. 13 of the 21 opponents the Hounds will face this season qualified for the state playoffs in 2021 including all 3 teams the Hounds will face in the Georgia Dugout club tournament during the 2

 

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).

 

Pitchers

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.

 

Infield

 

The infield should be a major strength of the Hounds this season as 3 starting infielders as well as the starting catcher return to solidify the Hounds defense. Junior Carson Kerce will make the switch from 2b to SS for the 2022 season. Kerce is a muti faceted 5 tool player who hit .350 and posted a .417 OBP as a sophomore last year. Kerce will be joined on the left side of the infield by 2021 starting third baseman Kent Schmidt. Schmidt led the Hounds in batting average (.395) and OBP (.549 – 7th best all time). Senior Cody McGill (Tennessee Wesleyan commit) who was injured in the 3rd game of the 2021 season returns to his starting 1st base position and brings a big time power bat to the Hounds lineup. Second base duties will be handled by juniors Cooper Orr and Tyler Urowsky. Orr and Urowsky will also add depth at SS and 3b where they will solidify the Hounds depth chart behind Kerce and Schmidt. Left handed sticks Zach Wright (sr) and Andrew Walters (jr) will give Pope left handed hitting options off the bench with Wright adding depth at 1st base and Walters serving as super infield utilityman having the ability to play 3rd, SS, and 2b. Sophomore Jack Myers is also able to add depth with his slick fielding in the middle infield and Sophomore Andrew Nelms can step in to handle a corner infield position if needed.

 

Outfield

The Hounds return 4 senior outfielders and add 3 juniors into the mix to have a well rounded and talented outfield group. Senior Dawson Campbell and senior Caid Heflin (East Georgia Commit) were both 2021 starters who return to anchor their spots in CF and RF respectfully. Campbell led the team with 28 RBI’s in 2021 and chipped in a .446 OBP and .345 average from the leadoff spot and Heflin batted .297 with 21 RBI and had a .380 OBP. Talented outfielders Trey Kaiser and Nick Jones (Emmanuel College) will both play some leftfield. Kaiser hit .304 with a double, 2 triples, and a HR in 2021 and Jones batted .350 while posting a .531 OBP. Junior Logan Rapp will add athleticism and grit int the outfield mix and junior Jake Gastley will add some corner outfield pop and can come off the bench to provide some right handed power when needed. Junior Calvin Koo who made an outfield appearance as a sophomore in 2021 can also add defensive depth when called upon.

 

Catchers

Senior Heath Owen (Belmont commit) returns to handle the catching duties in 2022 after serving as the

starting catcher in 2021. Owen batted .316 with 15 RBIs and 6 doubles in 2021 posting a .409 OBP. Owen will be backed up by senior Jackson Winbush who appeared in multiple games in 2021 and is a great receiver and hardnosed player. Junior Jesse Walter will also compete for catching time and brings solid bat to ball skills into the mix. Jake Gastley can provide catching depth as well as Logan Rapp and Andrew Nelms if needed.

 

The Hounds officially open up the season on February 15th against McEachern High School at 5:55 at Jeff Rowland Field.