CONYERS - Last season a lack of offense was what hindered the Rockdale baseball squad from a trip to the state playoffs.
Despite an overall record of 13-12 in an extremely talented Region 8-AAAA, the Bulldogs fell short of their ultimate goal.
That could easily change this year.
"As a team, we want to have more consistent quality at-bats. When runners are in scoring position, we need to get them in instead of leaving them stranded," Rockdale coach Casey Martin said. "Most importantly, (we) need to mentally prepare ourselves to play seven innings of consistent, quality baseball."
In practice Rockdale has been zoning in on base running and hitting with runners in scoring position.
Buck Farmer and Kevin Masters are Rockdale's key returning seniors. Returning juniors include Nakeem Forte, Kevin Dawkins and Landon Blackwell. In addition, a returning key sophomore who earned a lot of playing time as a freshman is Ryan Conner.
The cream of the crop - sans pun - is Farmer, the Rockdale standout who returns after a phenomenal junior season.
Farmer batted a team-high .457, including 10 home runs and 28 RBIs. Throw in 37 hits and 20 runs scored and one is looking at a potential 2009 Player of the Year candidate.
His slugging percentage of .877 coupled with his .556 on-base percentage is also noteworthy.
On the mound, Farmer posted a 2.03 earned run average and 86 strikeouts in 512â "3 innings pitched.
Forte returns as a legitimate leadoff batter for the Bulldogs. Last season he batted .313 with 26 hits, 23 runs scored, four home runs and 13 RBIs. Forte also stole 12 bases and recorded an on-base percentage of .431.
Attempting to obstruct Rockdale's view from reaching its goal include Heritage, Loganville, Winder-Barrow, Salem and Madison.
"They (each) have quality programs with good ball players who can change a game's direction at any moment," Martin said.
According to Martin, Rockdale's strength is its pitching. Yet based on the Bulldogs' work ethic in the batter's box - along with a determined head coach - by year's end its hitting could be just as dangerous.
Jason Murdock can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: At a glance
· Team: Rockdale Baseball
· Coach: Casey Martin (third year)
· First game: 5:55 p.m. Monday at home against North Springs
· Key returning players: Buck Farmer, Kevin Masters, Nakeem Forte, Kevin Dawkins, Landon Blackwell and Ryan Conner