CUMMING, Ga. — It’s a new classification, new region and, after graduating 13 seniors last season, a lot of new faces for Lambert baseball this year.
It’s all relatively new for head coach Rick Howard as well, who will lead the Longhorns again this season after his debut season in 2016 that saw the senior-laden Longhorns capture their second straight region title and advance to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
Gone are last season’s senior standouts Turner Scruggs, Jake Tomelevage, Hunter Furlong, Kyle McCann and Zach Graviono, all of whom are playing at the collegiate level this season.
Howard said last year’s senior class was not only crucial to the success of the team, but they were also a joy to coach.
“I was only with them for a year but I would say probably the greatest thing about them was they played so well together. They were truly team-oriented players and did whatever was best for the team. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids to start off here.”
With so many gaps, Howard said his team will need to get game experience to decipher the type of team they will be.
“We have had to dive into it and learn about ourselves,” he said.
“[The team has] talked at length about it being a process. It’s about getting a few games under your belt, getting comfortable and getting the game to slow down a little bit. Once that happens we will see their ability come through.”
Though Lambert’s roster includes 10 seniors this year, many saw limited playing time last season.
“I like our new group of kids, they just don’t bring a lot of experience to the table,” Howard said. “But as a staff I think we have some guys that are ready to play at a high level.”
Howard said the gaps left by the outgoing senior class will be filled by players moving up from the JV level, as well as some underclassmen who received playing time last year.
Those who return to the varsity level include shortstop Josh Mcallister, who Howard said had a “tremendous” junior year in 2016. Third baseman Will Gabbert, Harrison LeBlanc and Griffin Jarrett also return. Howard said Jarrett will share duties at first base and as designated hitter.
“Outside of those players we don’t have a lot we are bringing back in terms of innings played,” Howard said.
In addition to a relatively inexperienced roster, Lambert will have to face the challenge of playing in a new region, Region 5-AAAAAAA, which includes all public Forsyth County teams and Milton.
Lambert won its last two region titles in Class AAAAAA.
“It’s going to be very tough day in and day out against a lot of very competitive schools,” Howard said. “It also adds hype because we will be playing so many rivals. It’s only my second year, but I know it’s pretty competitive among all the schools here. It’s going to be fun, I think.”