As a whole, the 2019 Bartow County high school baseball season ended up being fairly disappointing for all four local teams.
Adairsville, which was coming off a fantastic 2018 season, and Cass relied upon young players almost exclusively during rebuilding campaigns. Doing so against some of the top teams in Northwest Georgia certainly hurt the teams' overall marks.
The hope for the Tigers and Colonels will be that the learning experience helps each program build for the future. Offense wasn't really the issue for the teams, so the onus will be on the pitching staffs to step up in 2020.
Woodland, likewise, didn't have a veteran lineup this spring. Although, the Wildcats did have experience in some key spots. That's partly what helped them put together the second-best season of the locals.
The team had to overcome a coaching change early in the year. That being said, Woodland promoted interim head coach Matt Montgomery to the position on a permanent basis, securing the services of one of the area's top coaches.
Meanwhile, Cartersville put together a great year, on paper. The Canes finished 28-6 with an 11-1 record in Region 5-AAAA play en route to a second straight championship.
However, a senior-laden group that came agonizingly close to winning a state title in 2018 came up just short again. Cartersville dropped a pair of close, low-scoring games to eventual-champion Northside, Columbus in the quarterfinals to end the careers of some outstanding players.
Two of those Canes earned superlative titles on this year's all-county team, while the team's lone non-senior starter also garnered one of the top individual honors. Each of the three landed on Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine's Class 4A all-state first team, which would seem to validate their status as the most deserving of those awards.
Player of the Year: Preston Welchel, Cartersville senior
In his senior year, Welchel finally put everything together at the plate to become the best all-around player in the county. A top-notch defensive center fielder, Welchel had often shown flashes of power but had been streaky at the dish. In 2019, it all came together in the form of a .408/.520/.745 slash line. The South Alabama signee produced 40 hits, including nine doubles, three triples and six home runs, to go with 20 walks. He finished with 29 runs scored and 34 driven in. Welchel earned Region 5-AAAA player of the year honors after slashing .594/.705/.969 in a dozen league games.
Hitter of the Year: Josh Davis, Cartersville junior
Hitting out of the leadoff spot, Davis proved to be one of Cartersville’s most consistent players throughout the season. While everybody on the Canes, even Welchel, seemed to go through highs and lows, Davis managed to contribute with an incredibly high floor. It didn’t hurt that his ceiling is pretty high, as well. He finished the year slashing .391/.468/.536. In 2020, he’ll be Cartersville’s only returning starter. It means he’ll be asked to remain the leader in hits (43), runs scored (32) and stolen bases (8), as he was in 2019, along with continued improvement defensively and in the power department.
Pitcher of the Year: Mason Barnett, Cartersville senior
Believe it or not, Barnett actually landed hitter of the year in our compilation of the 2018 DTN all-county team. While his offensive stats dipped during his senior season, his already outstanding numbers on the mound somehow improved. Barnett compiled a 10-1 record, a 0.47 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and a .131 batting average allowed. He struck out 90 batters in a dozen starts, spanning 59 1/3 innings. An Auburn signee, Barnett will follow in the footsteps of Elliott Anderson, a former Cane turned Tiger, who gave up hitting to focus on pitching at the next level. He still managed a .439 OBP in his senior year.
Ian Inaba, Cartersville senior — Always a solid left fielder, Inaba improved by leaps and bounds at the dish in 2019. He had the third-highest batting average on a team that won 28 games and reached the state quarterfinals. He landed a spot on the all-region squad after particularly shining in the league. Even still, his overall numbers rival the best in the county. He finished with 32 hits, 16 runs scored and 12 RBIs, but his .360 batting average and .457 OBP really tell the story of his contributions.
Bryson Markley, Cass senior — One of the rare seniors for the Colonels, Markley garnered second-team all-Region 7-AAAAA status as an outfielder. Markley had to have been one of the few players in the state with more triples (4) than doubles (3). Regardless, his ability to find the gaps helped boost him to a team-leading .484 slugging percentage. That, in turn, helped him lead Cass in OPS at .898. He paced the Colonels with 13 RBIs to go with a .313 average and .413 OBP.
Logan Martin, Cartersville senior — Martin really came into his own in region play, finishing with a 3-0 mark and a 1.07 ERA, which was somehow only good enough for a second-team nod. He proved to be a steal for the University of the South-Sewanee, throwing 60 innings for the Canes with 90 strikeouts to just 22 walks. Overall, the lean right-hander pitched to a 1.98 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 9-1 record. His decision to rejoin the Canes this spring was the team’s single biggest boost.
Gage Morris, Cartersville senior — The fact that Morris didn’t make Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine’s all-state team is laughable. The fact that he didn’t even get a spot on the all-region team is criminal. After pitching out of his mind in 2018, Morris was even better his senior season. He posted a 3-1 record and seven saves in 22 appearances to go with a microscopic 0.40 ERA and 0.71 WHIP. Morris added 42 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings and a .158 BAA for good measure.
B.J. Roper, Adairsville senior — One of the only returning contributors from Adairsville’s great 2018 team, Roper picked up the slack this season. There were too many inexperienced players around him for it to show, but the speedy center fielder put together a wonderful senior campaign. His 23 hits and 15 walks led to a solid .343 average and elite .476 OBP. His walks led the team, as did his nine steals. He matched fellow senior Trace Still with 15 runs scored to pace the Tigers.
Matt Shook, Cass sophomore — Shook showed flashes of potential during his freshman season before truly becoming one of the county’s best hitters in 2019. He finished first or second on the Colonels in batting average (.337), OBP (.429), slugging (.458) and OPS (.886). The left-handed hitting infielder easily led the Colonels in hits (28), doubles (8) and runs scored (21) en route to first-team all-region honors. He seems likely to grab DTN hitter of the year before graduating.
Scotty Smith, Woodland sophomore — Smith might have put together the best under-the-radar season of anyone in Bartow County. He slashed .313/.405/.469. His slugging percentage and .874 OPS were both tops on the Wildcats. Smith chipped in with four doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs. If he can improve his walk-to-strikeout ratio, which included six base on balls and 21 punchouts this season, Smith has the potential to be a mainstay on the all-county team for the next two years.
Koby Stansel, Woodland senior — Following the graduation of region pitcher of the year Kenny Jinks, Stansel seemed likely to impact the team mostly on the mound in 2019. While he led the team with three wins, his peripherals weren’t great. However, the senior made a huge difference for the Wildcats at the plate. He finished with 15 RBIs and the same number of runs scored to rank first and second, respectively, on the team. Next year, he and teammate Bailey Ward will play for Young Harris.
Trace Still, Adairsville senior — Still did all he could to help Adairsville during an obvious rebuilding year. He led the Tigers in most offensive categories, including hits (27), doubles (7) and RBIs (16). He slashed .391/.455/.536 on the year, posting a top-notch .991 OPS. Some of his most impressive work came with runners in scoring position, when he hit .433. Still coaxed eight walks against just 11 strikeouts. He rounded out his standout swan song with 15 runs scored and three steals.
Bailey Ward, Woodland senior — Ward did anything and everything he could to help Woodland this season. The fact that he earned all-region recognition at three different positions is pretty self-explanatory. Offensively, his .321 batting average and .433 OBP were each the highest on the team. A rock behind the plate, Ward’s 26 hits and a dozen walks also led Woodland. On the mound, where he didn’t contribute really at all last year, Ward struck out 38 batters in 39 2/3 innings.
Cohen Wilbanks, Cartersville senior — Wilbanks had the unenviable job of taking over at catcher for 2018 first-round draft pick Anthony Seigler. He did better than anyone could have asked, while also becoming a major cog in the Canes rotation. He went 4-1 with a 2.42 ERA. Wilbanks started seven games and went the distance in two of them. Offensively, he didn’t hit for much power but proved to be the consummate No. 2 hitter, moving runners over and posting an OBP north of .450.
Dallas Adams, Woodland junior; Landon Ayers, Adairsville senior; Blaine Ingram, Cass junior; J.P. Martin, Cartersville senior; Peyton Posey, Woodland sophomore; and Jordan Wilkie, Cartersville senior.