Trojans off to torrid start in 2019

Pitcher throwing baseball
BY MASON WITTNER
THE TIMES-GEORGIAN

 

A changing of the guard has proven to have minimal affect for the Carrollton High School baseball team thus far in its 2019 campaign as first-year head coach Scott Johnson has led his team to a 9-2 start entering today's road battle with McEachern.

To uncover the secret to the Trojans' success in the early season, one should begin by observing the corkboard plastered on the right wall of Carrollton's dugout at Cole Field.

Tacked to the board is a laminated card, which contains the five pillars of success Johnson has implemented for his club this season: team first, communicate, attack, force failure and be consistent.

Prior to the Trojans' doubleheader with Heritage-Catoosa and Northgate on Feb. 23, Johnson stood in front of the board and worked his way down the list as he explained each of Carrollton's five core values.

"We're going to put our team first," Johnson said. "We're going to try to communicate on and off the field, because they've got to communicate in life or they're not going to be successful. We want to attack the baseball when we're at the plate, and attack the other team by throwing strikes when we're on defense. We want to force failure by throwing strikes and making them hit the ball, as well as putting the ball in play to test their defense.

"And lastly, day in and day out we want to be consistent. Practice like you're going to play in the game and play in the game hard. If you're doing all that and being consistent, then we're going to see the results that we want to see."

Johnson has been thrilled with the initial results he's received from his team.

The Trojans opened the season in dominant fashion, reeling off five straight victories while outscoring opponents 55-1.

A faulty defensive performance caused them to drop their first game of the season against Northgate, but they've since bounced back by winning four of their last five contests, including a pair of Region 7-AAAAA battles with Rome.

Carrollton returned a plethora of key players from last season's team that made a postseason run before falling to Starr's Mill in three games in the elite eight of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

While Johnson believes the leadership from his senior class will help guide the team as the season progresses, he isn't ruling out the potential of his underclassmen stepping into those roles as well.

"We've got 13 seniors and we're expecting them to step up in various ways and lead in various ways," Johnson said. "We try to give our players a chance to take ownership no matter what grade they are or how much experience they have.

"If they want to take a leadership role, they certainly may. We've got some juniors that are anxious to get their chance, and we've got some sophomores who have stepped up and earned some playing time."

The Trojans' rotation is bolstered by senior right-hander Chris Gaiter and sophomore southpaws Eli Runyan and Colton Cosper. In addition to that trio, Johnson believes he can call on as many as 12 different kids to take the mound at any given time.

"I can put any guy on the mound in any situation and have confidence in him," Johnson said.

The Trojans' bountiful depth allows for similar flexibility at the plate.

"Everybody who isn't listed as a P.O. -- a pitcher only -- can be in the lineup anywhere. We've got solid bats up and down our lineup," Johnson said. "In fact, we've got guys who are really good hitters and really good players who aren't getting as much time because we've just got so much depth."

Carrollton will continue region play this evening it travels to McEachern for a 6:30 p.m. contest, and will remain on the road for a duel with Fannin County on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Johnson is pleased with the start his club has gotten off to, and believes they're laying the foundation for success on a daily basis.

"We're trying to continue in the tradition that Carrollton is used to by putting out a good baseball team year after year after year," Johnson said.

"We've got a situation this year where, if the kids will buy into what we're trying to get done, I think that's going to happen."