Players ready to shine this baseball season

Lithonia, Tucker, Dunwoody, LakesideSome DeKalb County high school baseball players are going into the 2017 season with high hopes and state playoffs on their minds.

Seven DeKalb County School District teams—Chamblee, Druid Hills, Dunwoody, Lakeside, Redan, Southwest DeKalb and Tucker—as well as Decatur, Marist and St. Pius X all made the playoffs last season. St. Pius was the only team to go deep in the playoffs—advancing to the Class AAAA quarterfinals where they lost to Eastside.

A few players from non-playoff teams are also hoping to advance to the playoffs this year, including last year’s county leader in batting average—Cedar Grove senior Jenard Morris. Morris, led the county with a .540 average, had 29 hits, 26 RBI’s, nine doubles and two triples.

Morris said he had a good offseason, hitting 100 balls a day to prepare for the season. He said he wants to lead the county again in hitting.

“I also want to lead in pitching as well and have the best glove [in the field],” Morris said.

Cedar Grove finished the 2016 season with a 9-11 record after advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 1991 in 2015. The team has several returning starters and Morris is confident his team will do well and fight for a playoff spot.

“Our team is really good this year,” he said. “I’m feeling really good. We’ll go far this year.”

Miller Grove senior Daniel Harris, who finished sixth in the county with a .440 batting average, said his team can also make a run to the playoffs.

“I definitely think we’re going to be over .500 and hopefully we’ll get to the playoffs,” Harris said.

Miller Grove didn’t reach .500 last season with a 6-12 record and the Wolverines have not made the state playoffs since 2010, their only playoff appearance in program history. Harris said hitting will be the key for the Wolverines if they want to make the playoffs.

“We definitely have to work on hitting, so that’s what we’ve been doing—working on hitting, getting in the [batting] cages, going opposite field,” he said. “That’s going to get us to the playoffs.”

For Stone Mountain junior Joshua Christian, being successful in basic baseball fundamentals will be the key for the Pirates to make a possible playoff appearance.

“Fundamentals, that’s all what the game is—fundamentals,” Christian said.

His teammate, Roderick Hudson, said it’s all about taking one step, one game at a time.

“[We can’t] look forward on the schedule,” Hudson said. “We have to look at what’s in front of us now. That’s the key.”

“We need to work together as a team,” their teammate Jimmy Ae added.

Stone Mountain has not made the playoffs since 1989 and the Pirates finished last season with a 3-18 record. Christian, Hudson and Ae said they spent the offseason in the weight room to prepare for the 2017 season.

“I’ve been in the weight room working on my leg [strength] and stamina and getting my arm stronger,” Christian said.

“We had tons of workouts; we really never took a day off since the season ended,” Hudson said. “We’re ready to go.”

Lithonia freshman A’lante Shepherd is also ready to go this season. Lithonia coach Samuel Marion had nothing but glowing remarks about the young hitter and said Shepherd is expected to be a playmaker for the Bulldogs.

“He will be big for us,” Marion said.

Shepherd, who plays for East Cobb travel baseball team, said he doesn’t feel any pressure to lead the team to the promised land.

“I’m just going to do my job with the team and hope everyone does their job,” Shepherd said. “We’ve been bonding and I think we’re going to have a really good season.”

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