With a 12-3 overall record and 3-1 mark in Region 7AAAAA as of last Thursday, the veteran-dominated Warriors are off to their best start in years and have their eyes on the school’s first state baseball playoff berth.
“The team’s playing good,” North Atlanta coach Bill Dickey said. “We’ve got a senior-heavy team here. Everybody’s playing well and we just got to keep it going.”
Making their strong showing even more impressive is the fact that the Warriors have moved up two classifications from Class AAA — where they were 14-12 overall and 5-8 in Region 5AAA a year ago — to AAAAA and are playing in a competitive 7AAAAA that includes perennial state playoff teams Dunwoody and Lakeside.
“The top of the region is about the same in both regions,” Dickey said. “But the difference is that [7AAAAA] is better from top to bottom. There’s more competition through the region.”
Everything has come together for a senior-laden lineup that has played together for the last several years, according to community coach Gip Johnston.
“We’ve been building this program for the past three years,” Johnston said. “And, now, we’re at a point where we’re ready to take the next step and win a region championship. We’ve got the players; we’ve got the senior leadership. We have quality players in every position. We’re ready to take the next step.”
Senior first baseman/right fielder Jackson Echols is impressed with how the team is gelling on the field.
“We’re definitely playing a lot better than we have in previous years,” Echols said. “We’ve come together more as a team and that’s definitely showing. We’re making all the routine plays, and that’s what’s killed us the previous couple of seasons. We’re just playing a lot better this year.”
Pitching is the main source of North Atlanta’s strength, with seniors Harrison McClure (4-1 record, 2.16 earned run average), Wells King (6-2, 3.58), Austin Hedrick (2-0, 2.14) and Campbell Toye (five saves) leading the way.
“We have four senior pitchers who all throw the ball well and are established pitchers,” Johnston said. “When you have good pitching, you can win a majority of your games.”
The Warriors have also come through at the plate, with seven players hitting above .300.
Echols leads the team with a .467 batting average, six home runs and 29 RBIs, along with 21 hits as of last Thursday.
McClure, who also plays shortstop, is hitting .370 with a home run and 12 RBIs, while junior center fielder/catcher Will Johnson (.354, six RBIs), junior third baseman Jake Johnston (.310, nine RBIs), junior second baseman Brandon Ector (.310, five RBIs), sophomore outfielder John Livaditis (.303, nine RBIs) and pitcher/infielder King (.300, eight RBIs) are the other leading hitters.
With all the pieces in place, Dickey is confident North Atlanta is primed to earn its first-ever state playoff berth.
“We’re in the middle of the region schedule, so a lot is going to happen in the next couple of weeks,” Dickey said. “But, if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, we’ve got as good a shot as anybody.”