May 6, 2021

2020 Heard County High School Baseball Preview

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Braves varsity baseball team will take the field for its regular season opener tomorrow with a de facto day-night home doubleheader versus a pair of Devil squads at HCHS.

The Braves were originally slated to open with Pepperell at home Tuesday before the rains came. That contest will now take place on March 11.

The 2020 version of the Braves will look to bounce back from a round one state playoff defeat at Social Circle last year.

In the four years prior to 2019, the Braves made three appearances in the Elite 8 and one appearance in the Sweet 16 under Coach Trent Bianco, who enters his seventh season as the Braves head coach.

The Braves will return an experienced squad this year led by five seniors who have each been with the program since they were freshmen.

One of the top returnees for the Braves will be senior third baseman and No. 1 starting pitcher Tray Owens. Owens has been a pivotal aspect in the lineup and on the mound for the Braves during his tenure at HCHS.

Owens batted .423 in 2019 with seven homers, 11 doubles and 34 RBI’s while striking out just 12 times in 108 at bats. He was the team leader in ERA at 2.10 and strikeouts with 54 in 60 innings of work while notching a team high five wins in his 11 starts.

Another senior stalwart returning to the lineup will be No. 2 starting pitcher Dale Thornhill. Thornhill will once again be the top guy at the shortstop position and an important piece of the rotation after earning four wins in his nine starts as a junior.

Senior Caden Raines will return to his familiar starting slot at second base, while junior Drew Cornelius will be at the first base position.

Freshman John Paul Awbrey has been an impressive youngster a the plate and should also see some action at first base, while sophomore Noah Cantrell will be an important utility piece for Coach Bianco at several infield positions depending on who the starting pitcher is each game.

Another strong bat in the line-up will be that of junior Hayden McCosh who can back up Owens at third base and will see plenty of time at the DH position.

Returning starters will man the left and center field positions with senior Jake Harrod returning to left and junior Leroy Marsh back in center field.

2020 Seniors (L-R): Nathaniel Kiser, Dale Thornhill, Caden Raines, Tray Owens, and Jake Harrod (Photo: HCHS Baseball)

Marsh will be in the lead-off spot after batting .306 as a sophomore and leading the squad in steals with 11.

In right field, several sophomores are vying to replace the strong bat of 2019 graduate Tanner Collins and the list includes Aidan Boyd, Isaiah O’Neal, and Chris Pruitt.

Leading the defense from behind the plate will be another sophomore Chance Brown — also the younger brother of former Brave standout catcher Tristan Brown. Freshman Tyler Lasseter has likewise been impressive and could see some time behind the plate as the Braves look to replace another 2019 grad Will Hammett.

Boyd, Harrod, and Cornelius will vye for the No. 3 starter role on the mound and along with senior Nathaniel Kiser, Marsh and Raines will primarily comprise the Braves bullpen.

Bianco will be joined in the dugout by assistant coaches Matt Hornsby, Gavin Porter, Tyler Spradlin, and Trevor Spradlin.

As usual, Coach Bianco has scheduled some tough non-region match-ups to prepare his team for region play and the postseason with some especially tough Class AA match-ups during these first two weeks of the season.

Following the home opener this week, the Braves will travel to Lovett Monday to take on the Lions at 4:00 PM. The squad will return home to host Coosa on Wednesday (5:30 PM) and will also host Jeff Davis Friday (5:30 PM) and Vidalia next Saturday, February 22 in an early 11:00 AM start.

Other non-region games on the 2020 slate include road games at Handley, Troup Co, Villa Rica, Coosa, Central, Ranburne with additional home non-region games versus Pepperell, Handley, and Brookstone.

The Region 5-AA schedule will begin on Tuesday, March 10 at Lamar County and region play will again feature the three game series format with a single game at one school on Tuesday’s followed up by a doubleheader at the other school on Friday.

The Braves will close out the region schedule with a home doubleheader versus Callaway on April 10.

For more information, photos and updates on Brave baseball visit Heard County Braves Baseball on Facebook.

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