From graduating a large senior class to joining a new region with only one familiar member, there are plenty of unknowns for the Lions this season. What Shiver does know is he has a group that is ready to step up, lead and be successful in 2013.
"We lost 12 seniors, quality guys, but we've got eight seniors coming back and a good core coming back in key positions. We'll be young in some other positions, but kids have seemed to step up to the challenge so far and I'm anxious to see how they mature as the season goes along," Shiver said. "We have a whole new team, pretty much, except for a couple guys."
Leading this group of seniors is shortstop and leadoff hitter Spencer Lewis and catcher Ryan Helton, who both return with plenty of experience.
"Lewis is a college-type player. He's back to control the infield, which is nice to have that quarterback type of guy. Then Helton is very good defensively. He does a good job of reading the pitchers and what kind of pitcher we have. I'm looking forward to having him behind the plate. I don't think we'll lose a step having Ryan there," Shiver said.
One spot hit the hardest is the Central pitching staff. The Lions lost staff ace John Harman, along with Blaine Carter, Garrett White and Ronald Wright. Those holes will mostly be filled by underclassmen Will Sheffield, Jacob Lane and Adam Kinnard.
"We've got several juniors and three or four sophomores we'll be looking to, a couple of seniors that are going to give us relief innings. They've got to grow up fast. I thought they did a good job this summer just settling in with the varsity setting. We expect big things. Even though we don't have the experience on the mound, we look to be competitive," Shiver said.
Other underclassmen that will be looked upon will be backup catcher and designated hitter Wesley Long, Avery Gaines on the mound and at second base and Cullen Morehead.
While the roster will be different, the biggest change is the region foes the Lions will have to go through in an attempt to reach the state playoffs. Gone are the traditional powers in Columbus, LaGrange, Troup and Carrollton as they are replaced by Callaway, Chapel Hill and Rockmart.
"I think Callaway will be very competitive, I think Chapel Hill will be competitive. I don't know much about Rockmart and coach [Chris] Wigley is doing a great job up at Haralson [County]. Don't know much about the Atlanta schools, but I think it will be competitive and I think, for us, it gives us a chance to be competitive as well," Shiver said. "When you play good teams like last year's region, it's tough. We had four teams go to the elite eight and two to the final four. I think the quality of baseball was very good last year and I don't expect it to take too much of a drop."
The Lions get their first taste of competition today when they host Villa Rica in a 1 p..m. scrimmage before opening the season Monday at home against Mt. Zion in a 5:30 p.m. contest. The focus of the scrimmage and non-region schedule will be to gain experience and momentum going into region play.
"Obviously, we want to see how we're going to compete, make sure we get pitchers innings and be experienced on the mound. We want to win, but we also want to be as competitive as possible and give ourselves an opportunity to be successful day-in and day-out," Shiver said.