Even after graduating five seniors and bringing in Ryan Zaideman to take over the program, the wins keep coming for the team that made it to the Class AAA state quarterfinals last season. With one more tournament left this month, the Trojans are 17-3 and on a 12-game winning streak.
"We've got some hard-nosed players. We've got a good group of young men. They've just got good personalities and it's a real joy to be around them and get to know them. I've really enjoyed this summer and the time we've had. We've spent a lot of time together," Zaideman said.
The time includes trips to a wood bat tournament in Cobb County, the Georgia Dugout Tournament held at East Paulding, Allatoona and Milton, a tournament hosted by Hillgrove, a team camp at Middle Tennessee State and this past weekend down at Columbus State.
The Trojans haven't played an easy schedule, either. They have taken on several playoff teams from the top classifications.
"We've faced a lot of big programs and a lot of programs that have gone deep in the playoffs, especially in AAAAA and AAAA. A lot of that is just mental toughness, being able to go and play doubleheaders," Zaideman said. "Going down after camp I was expecting a lot of them to be dragging a little bit, but they were upbeat and they got after it."
The summer has allowed Zaideman to start implementing his own style and philosophies into the team as he gets to know his players better. With 20 games already under his belt, things are progressing nicely.
"We've got a lot — I'd say 60 to 70 percent — of it in. We've still got a lot more to do, but we were able to do some team-building things this summer and implement a lot of our defensive stuff and incorporate some of our offensive philosophies into it. Just being aggressive on the base paths — that's something they're accustomed to and have done in the past — we've been focusing a lot on base-running. Defensively, just positioning. We're making progress there, but there's still a lot of work to do," Zaideman said.
Some of the defensive work has been moving players into some different positions they played from last year, both to fill holes from graduation and also put players in the best position to help the team. As the summer winds down Zaideman — along with assistant coaches Kurt Hitzeman, Trent Bianco and Ryan Duffey — will sit down with each player.
"This summer's been huge. It gives us a chance to evaluate everybody. We'll bring everybody in at the end of the [summer] season for player evaluations and talk about their strengths and their areas of need, where we project them," Zaideman said. "When we sit down and talk to them and evaluate everything, we've got some guys that we've moved to different positions and we're really looking forward to watching those guys mature and develop there."
And while Zaideman is learning the players, he has a pair of top varsity assistants in Hitzeman and Bianco who know the team very well.
"I've been very blessed with a very good coaching staff here. Trent does an excellent job with our hitters and defensively. Same thing with Kurt. He's jam-up with our pitchers. Both have done an excellent job running games. I've been very impressed with them and the way they've handled a lot of our athletes and the transition. I'm blessed to have those guys here. We've got a very good coaching staff at Carrollton," Zaideman said.
Now the Trojans will look to finish out the summer on a strong note as they travel to Milton today following the youth camp in the morning.
"We want to end on a very strong note. We've won 12 straight. It's not about wins and losses in the summer, it's about improving in a lot of areas. We've had a chance to get a lot of things accomplished — like exposure for colleges — just to reinforce a lot of things we're doing with the team camps at Middle Tennessee. The team retreat is a reward for them, for their hard work and dedication they've put in this summer. It's just another opportunity for us to spend time together and then that Sunday we come back and all go to church together as a group and wrap the summer up. This week is huge for us. Probably the biggest week of the summer for us," Zaideman said.