High School : : Rankings
Friday, February 2, 2018

Panthers to begin '18 at No. 2

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Parkview HS Baseball

2018 High School Baseball Preview Content

No. 2 Parkview Panthers (Lilburn, Ga.)

State Association/League:
Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class 7A Region 7
Head Coach: Chan Brown (14th season as head coach)
2017 Results: 31-6 overall; 11-1 7A Region 7 champion; GHSA Class 7A state quarterfinals

Key Losses: SS/OF Joey Demasi (North Georgia); C Jacob O’Neil (North Georgia); LHP/1B Cody Collett (North Georgia); OF/2B Melvin Teague (Georgia Highlands CC); LHP/OF Caleb Mitchell (Mercer); OF Will Boles (Gordon State College); RHP/1B Mason Bernard (Chattahoochee CC)

Top Returning Players: Sr. LHP Braden Hays (Georgia Southern); Sr. SS Isaiah Byars (Alabama); Sr. C Logan Cerny (Troy); Sr. 1B/LHP Robert Bennett (Chipola College); Sr. RHP Jarrett Embry (Columbus State); Sr. OF Michael Bryant (Georgia Southern), Jr. C/OF/RHP Jonathan French (Clemson); So. RHP Miles Garrett (Vanderbilt)

Notable Matchups: Feb. 24 at Buford; March 2-3 vs. Georgia Peach Tournament (at Parkview & Loganville); March 8-10 vs. Perfect Game High School Showdown (at PG Park South-LakePoint, Emerson, Ga.); vs. Spring Break Florida Trip (at Venice, Sarasota & Tampa); April 18 at Brookwood; April 20 vs. Brookwood

                                                                                                 … … …

THE LIST OF GHSA REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS IS A LENGTHY ONE, dating back to 1983. There are 21 in total, counting three in the 1980s, five in the 1990s and 13 since 2001. The success the Parkview High School baseball program has enjoyed over the last three-plus decades is legendary and, of course, involves much more than regional titles.

There are also plenty of Georgia state championship trophies crowding the school’s display cases, six of them in all, earned in 1996, 2001, 2002, 2011, 2012 and 2015. And there’s more. Parkview was also named national champion in 2012 and 2015 with the one in ’15 coming from Perfect Game.

The calendar has now flipped into February, which means the start of the 2018 baseball season isn’t that far off for the baseball-crazy high schools that populate the northeast Atlanta suburbs. It’s what the folks in this little patch of Gwinnett County live for, especially those who have a special attachment to Parkview.

And nothing really changes at the school from year to year, at least not in the 13 years that head coach Chan Brown has been overseeing the baseball program. He was the man in charge when the Panthers won those state championships in 2011, 2012 and 2015 and both national championships.

Every year, it seems, the program graduates top-tier prospects into either the college or professional ranks, and every year a new parade of prospects comes in to replace them. This is what Brown told Perfect Game in the spring of 2016, following that national championship season:

“I think the confidence from a player’s standpoint carries over and they want to keep the tradition, per se, going for Parkview. They want to stay high in the national rankings and win a state championship and ultimately try to put themselves in position to try to win another national championship.”

So it goes, year after year. When the Panthers open the new season on Feb. 19 as the visitors at North Gwinnett HS, they’ll do so holding down the No. 2 position in the PG High School Preseason Top 50 Rankings. And that’s just one indication that there is a lot to be excited about on the Parkview campus this spring.

Nine starters return from the team that won 31 games and the program’s seventh regional championship in eight years last spring; seven of them are seniors, two are juniors.

Brown expects that senior leadership to be evident out on the field from the get-go, but he and his staff are still waiting for those leadership qualities to come to the forefront in the dugout and other places off the field. He’s confident everything will come together nicely in due time.

“It’s a very talented group and obviously if they go, then we’re going to go,” Brown told PG last week. “If they play like they’re capable and do the things that they’ve done last spring and this past summer, then we’ve got a good shot to be there at the end.”

Six of the returning position players appeared in at least 32 of the Panthers’ 37 games in 2017, including four seniors: catcher/outfielder Logan Cerny (.415-8-31), first baseman Robert Bennett (.307-0-19), outfielder Michael Bryant (.368-0-14) and shortstop Isaiah Byars (.212-2-13); PG ranks Byars as the No. 161 national prospect in the class of 2018 and Cerny is at No. 270.

Outfielder Jonathan French (.325-8-33) and infielder Allan Del Castillo (.263-0-13) are among the top junior position players returning after playing in 35 and 32 games, respectively, as sophomores.

The pitching staff will be fronted by 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior left-hander Braden Hays, a Georgia Southern signee and top-500 national prospect who was 10-1 with a 0.97 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings last season.

The right-hander Bennett (5-2, 1.63 ERA, 39 Ks, 34 1/3 IP) and senior righty Jarrett Embry (2-1, 2.88 ERA, 19 Ks, 17 IP) will contend for spots in the rotation; junior side-winding righty Brad Stanley is in position to anchor the bullpen.

Brown is also looking forward to having sophomore Miles Garrett at his disposal this spring. Garrett is a hard-throwing right-hander ranked No. 104 nationally in the class of 2020 who has committed to Vanderbilt.

By Brown’s own accounting, this is one of the most “laid-back” groups he has had come through his program in many years, and that’s OK with him. Different teams take on different personalities from season to season, and at a program like Parkview’s, they always figure out a way to be successful.

“It can kind of drive a coach crazy, but they don’t seem to let a whole lot bother them,” he said of this group’s personality. “I think maybe that’s going to be a strong attribute in some ways – a little bit laid-back but very talented. They got put through some tests last year that they’ve learned from and I think they understand what they’ve got to do.”

The Panthers will once again be tested by a rugged regular-season schedule which includes 12 games against 7A District 7 opponents. The last two games are home-and-away with arch-rival Brookwood from nearby Snellville, a team Brown considers one of the best in the state this season.

Parkview will also play some important out-of-league games at locations near and far this spring. It serves as co-host with Loganville for the three-game Georgia Peach Tournament and plays St. Thomas Aquinas out of Florida in the opener; it will be back at the PG High School Showdown for four games in nearby Emerson; and will take a spring break trip to Florida for games against Florida powers Venice HS, Sarasota HS and Tampa Jesuit HS.

“There’s some pretty lofty goals that have been set by this group about (the PG Showdown), about our tournament, about going down to Florida and doing well,” Brown said. “They’re kind of step-by-step goals that will get us to where we want to be.”

Early on this season, Brown and his staff will be working on making sure the players stay focused and attentive during practice, and then making sure that focus and attentiveness is carried out onto the field on game day. They have no doubt that it will, simply because not only are the players skilled, but they feel good about themselves and are determined to fill-up the school’s trophy cases with more hardware this spring.

“We as a program, and we as a coaching staff … we all know what’s there,” Brown said. “We all know we have the capability of doing some pretty special things this year. It’s just about putting it all together and making sure that we’re playing good baseball at the right time.”

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