So when the Georgia Dugout Club named the Titans the state’s top-ranked Class AAA team in their preseason poll, it wasn’t much more than a talking point for head coach Andy Harlin who prefers to keep his team focused on what he called “the process”.
“We try to stay away from expectations, because it’s a hard game to play and even harder when you’re worried about people expecting you to do things,” said Harlin, now in his 11th year as the BT skipper. “So we’re staying locked in on the process, which means knowing that each practice, each pitch and each at-bat you have are the most important thing.
“Not we do have a lot of experience back, and that helps a lot with that process.”
The wealth of experience (nine seniors) and talent returning is a big reason for the Titans top ranking. Coming off a year that saw them post 26 wins (second best all-time at BT), top state-power Buford for a region title and advance to the Elite Eight of the state playoffs, they return their three top arms on the mound and seven of nine bats to the lineup.
Their senior-laden pitching staff includes starters Brian Kehner (1.02 ERA, 66 Ks as a junior), Reed Scott (1.92 ERA, 65 Ks) and Keenan Innis, hard-throwing senior Nathaniel Maggio on the back end, and seniors Andrew Riel and C.J. Brazil in the middle innings.
Harlin defined his experienced staff as their biggest asset.
“We know with those guys we’ll always have a chance to win games and really that has always been the blood and veins of what we do, pitching and defense is what we work on most.”
But it won’t be all about defense. Outside of losing second baseman Jeff Sidlovsky to the University of Georgia, the Titans return nearly everyone from an offense that scored over eight runs per game a year ago.
Maggio returns to first base with Brazil assuming his post behind the plate and sure-handed John Davis at shortstop. Innis, Sam Roberts and Bronco O’Brien will make up the BT outfield again, Bryson Jenkins will slide from designated hitter to second base, and sophomores John Castro and Cody Roberts are expected to be the new additions to the Titans batting order.
“We have experience and talent, but it’s most important to stay focused on our process. If we do that all the other things will take care of themselves,” said Harlin.
The Titans will open their season against Mount Paran in the Georgia Dugout Tournament this Friday.