It's not often that a first-year coach takes over a team that has the nation's top draft prospect and has the potential to win a state championship. But that's the situation Grayson coach Jed Hixson finds himself in this year.
A 14-year coaching veteran with nine years at Grayson as an assistant coach, Hixson takes over for Seth Rhine, who stepped down after leading the Rams to a 27-9 record last year and a spot in the Class 5A semifinals.
Hixson inherits a team with eight returning starters, 15 returning seniors and an outfielder in Austin Meadows
who is considered by some to possibly be the first player chosen in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft.
Grayson thus begins the season ranked No. 5 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Preseason National Baseball Rankings. MaxPreps is counting down the top 10 teams in the country this week with the final top 25 being revealed Feb. 19.
"We have players who have played top notch competition, even on the national stage, so they are familiar with the pressure that comes with that type of competition and level of play," said Hixson.
Any talk of returning talent for Grayson starts with Meadows. A five-tool athlete, Meadows (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) has already committed to Clemson. He batted .390 with four home runs, 28 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. He impresses scouts with his speed and strong arm and his ability to hit to all fields.
However Meadows is not the lone talent at Grayson. Taylor Allum
proved to be invaluable to the Rams last year on the mound and at the plate. He posted a 9-0 record with a 1.57 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched. Also an outfielder, he batted .340 with two home runs and 26 RBIs. He is headed to Kennesaw State next year.Korey Anderson
, a senior right-handed pitcher/outfielder, gives the Rams another strong arm and bat. He was 2-2 with a 1.94 ERA and he also hit .314 with three home runs. Anderson has also signed to play college ball next year at Western Carolina.
Seniors Jack Banda
, a top football recruit, and Chris Erwin
fill out the pitching staff for the Rams. Banda went 4-2 last year with 40 strikeouts in 35.1 innings pitched with a 2.18 ERA. He also batted .320 with 26 RBIs and two home runs. Headed to Arizona on a football scholarship, Banda plays first base when not pitching. Erwin, a Kennesaw State signee, batted .364 with 25 runs scored as an outfielder last year. He also pitched in relief for the Rams.
The defense up the middle should be solid for the Rams with returning senior starters Brandon Benson
at shortstop and Jeril Dawson
at second base. Benson is signed to Georgia College and State University after batting .301 with seven doubles and 19 RBIs last season. Dawson has yet to sign but he is the Rams' top returning hitter with a .441 average, 17 RBIs and 39 runs scored.