Elite Eight not enough for Patriots
Heritage coach still seeking baseball state championship

CONYERS - The Heritage baseball program is a lot like a gravy train with biscuit wheels. The seasons keep rolling by, but the getting is always good.

The 2008 season was another example of their perennial diamond success.

The Patriots claimed their fourth straight 20-win season, fourth straight Region 8-AAAA title and fourth straight trip to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.

It's hard to find fault in what the Patriots have accomplished over the past four years, especially since the 112 wins makes them one of the winningest baseball programs in the state during that timespan.

Still, Heritage coach Casey Teal said the pinnacle will not be reached until he and his players can hoist a state championship trophy over their heads.

"Until we win our last game of the season, everything else is nice, but it's not exactly what we wanted," Teal said. "We obviously had kids that did a very good job for us in a lot of different areas, and I do think that we got about as much out of our kids as we could. Still, you always want to win your last game."

To Teal's credit, this year's team came into the season not as highly touted as in years past, which was strange considering the program was coming off three straight trips to the semifinals.

"Our kids and coaches both knew coming into the season that there were not a lot of people out there who were expecting us to go as far as we have in the past," Teal said. "We were slotted to compete for a playoff spot in the region - maybe the third of fourth spot - but our guys proved a lot of people wrong in that aspect. They were a very committed group of kids. They played baseball the right way and they played well all year. It was a very unselfish group of kids that did what we asked them to do."

Teal said one highlight of the season was winning the region title in what was arguably the best region in Class AAAA.

"It was a tough region schedule, overall. Not just Loganville and Salem, but teams like Rockdale, Madison County and Winder-Barrow, too," he said. "We had to play all of them twice. I believe the way the region schedule is set up, you're going to get the best four teams out of it. Going through that long stretch, playing 24 region games and coming out region champions was definitely a highlight of our season.

"To have two teams in the Final Four shows just how strong our region was. It was a very competitive region, and our kids battled. When things didn't go the way they planned it, they found a way to get it done."

Heritage finished the season at 27-6 after losing the third-and-deciding game of its Class AAAA quarterfinal series against Griffin and No. 1 major league draft pick Tim Beckham. The Patriots won the 8-AAAA title with a 22-2 record.

Teal said he will miss this group of seniors and all the hard work they've put in to become one of the winningest senior classes in Class AAAA baseball.

"This was a very special group. These seniors might not have been the most talented group of seniors, but they did things right and it showed," he said. "With 112 wins over a four-year period, those seniors did things right and they did them right for four years."

The Patriots lose seven seniors to graduation, but with the talent Heritage has coming back, the Patriots probably won't be flying under the radar next year.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.