The first-year Trojan skipper will lead his squad into the 2013 campaign against Walker in the Georgia Dugout Club Tournament, with a 5:30 p.m. first pitch slated against the Wolverines to get the season into full swing.
Zaideman said it’s been an encouraging transition thus far, and now the new Trojan leader is ready to get the ball rolling in a competitive environment.
“I mean, I’m very blessed to be here. I’ve become a Trojan fanatic. We’ve got a great administration with [Athletic Director David] Brooks and Dr. [Mark] Albertus, who’ve been extremely supportive. The booster club has been very generous and very supportive of the program,” Zaideman said.
“The players have been busting their tails all year. Be it with armbands, our throwing program, in the weight room. Coach [Carey] Phillips has done a great job with them in the weight room. We’ve got a great coaching staff. With coach [Kurt] Hitzeman, he’s done a great job with our infielders and pitching staff. Coach [Trent] Bianco has really got our hitters looking good early right now. He does a great job with the defense and our catchers. But the players have been very responsive, we’ve got great community support and the parents have really just jumped in and been very supportive. We’ve just got a good family atmosphere going on and we’re looking to do some big things and keep the tradition of Carrollton baseball going.”
The Trojans return seven seniors from last season’s Class AAA state quarterfinal squad, led by infielder/pitcher Christopher Hicks, who was a preseason all-state selection by the Georgia Dugout Club.
Along with Hicks, Carrollton also brings back catcher Drew Dickey, infielder Ty Wood, outfielder Chip Murrah, first baseman Cain Sauls, outfielder/pitcher Taylor Smith and pitcher Tanner Roach.
“We’ve got a lot of senior leadership this year. They’ve done a good job with their leadership skills. Drew Dickey, he’s a rock for us behind the plate. He’s a very vocal leader for us on the field defensively and off the field, as well,” Zaideman said. “Chris Hicks is going to be anchoring our middle infield and then we have Ty Wood, who is a very versatile athlete.”
The Trojans also feature a strong junior cast that got a lot of action last season as sophomores, with Andrew and Sam Turner, Will Hesterlee, Wil Garrett and Tucker Reynolds leading that group.
“Our whole team has a lot of playoff experience. We’ve got some savvy guys. We’ve got some gamers. When they paint that white line, they’re ready to play,” Zaideman said. “We’ve got some juniors that have a lot of game experience and playoff experience.”
And after enduring the elements of cool weather and rain for much of the preseason, the Trojans are excited about opening the season.
“We’ve got a lot of experience. Our seniors, we’ve all played. We all have very good experience. We also have talent. But on top of that, we have experience, which is very important. So I’m feeling really good about this season,” Hicks said.
And, as all teams understand at this point in the year, there is much to work to be done in the quest for a region crown, state playoff berth and the ultimate goal of a state title.
“Things are starting to click for us. I just think things are going the right way so far and we’re looking pretty good,” Roach said.
As always with the Carrollton program, expectations are high for this group. But it is focusing one game at a time to reach the desired destination.
“Well, the ultimate goal is the state championship. But we’ve got to work on the small things and put it together piece by piece,” Roach said.
And should the Trojans ultimately reach the postseason, they will have definitely earned it. Carrollton moves up to Class AAAA this year, but it remains with several of its past foes in perennial powers such as Columbus, LaGrange and Troup, while adding Alexander to the mix.
“So we still know the players that we’ll be playing against until we get to the playoffs and then that will change. But other than that, our region stays about the same. We pick up a few teams, but we still know who we’re going to play in the region. So that is good and very important to us,” Hicks said.
Zaideman expects a knock-down, drag-out battle from start to finish once region play begins for one of the coveted four playoff spots out of Region 5-AAAA.
“We are definitely in one of the toughest regions in the state. It was that way last year and then you add Alexander in and you’ve got some high-quality teams in there. They all have good coaching staffs and do a great job with those programs. It’s going to be a dogfight, for sure,” Zaideman said. “It’s going to be tough, but we’ve loaded up our off-[region] schedule. We’ve got some juggernauts in there and we’ve done that to help prepare us and get us ready for those teams.”
And now that the season is off and running, the Carrollton players are focused on making the most of it, especially the Trojan seniors.
“You hear people talk about it and how fast it goes, but you really don’t know what that means until you’re in it and you’re counting your last practices until the end of your high school career. So it’s very important to me and all of us seniors, just because it’s the last time we’re going to be able to wear the Black and Gold Trojan uniform. So we’re going to try to go out with a bang and go as far as we can,” Hicks said.