Nayman, who has been at Creekview since it opened its doors, said his 2013 team was packed with talent, but even with players like Zach Murdock (Toccoa Falls), Steven Whitaker (Coastal Carolina), Chase Puckett (Reinhardt), Ben Carraway (Virginia), C.J. Sims (Shorter), Ryan Stevens (LaGrange) and Ryan Zentko (Georgia Tech) now in college, the roster retained plenty of talent.
Looking at the 2014 roster, Nayman expects at least 10 of his current players to play in college, if they choose. Seven seniors have already signed a letters of intent, including Cherokee Tribune Player of the Year Avery Smith, who will attend Georgia Highlands with his twin brother, Austin. The other college commitments are Case Carmichael (Toccoa Falls), Max Holton (Piedmont), Jack Mayo (Montevallo), Hudson Graham (Bryan) and Nick Williams (North Georgia).
Nayman said underclassmen Chandler Wold, Jordan Pickerill and Kyle Wilkie also have the potential to play in college. Wold and Pickerill are now a juniors, while Wilkie is a sophomore. Wold and Wilkie have started since their freshman seasons.
“When all is said and done, we will have 17 players who were on (the 2013) roster go on to play in college,” Nayman said. “It’s various levels, but this year, we had seven sign. Last year, we had seven. Then, Kyle Wilkie, Chandler Wold and Jordan Pickerill were all on that roster, too. That’s 17 kids. I can’t explain it. I may never coach another team with that many kids who can go play at a higher level.”
With Williams at third base and Wold at shortstop, the Grizzlies have half the infield covered with experience. Wilkie — a player Nayman says “could wake up on Christmas day and go 3-for-4” — will continue to catch for the team. Avery Smith will spend time both in the outfield and on the mound.
Holton will play a bigger role on the team this year. A member of the team since he was a freshman, he has seen his playing time limited due to injuries. Now healthy for his final high school season, Nayman would like to Holton fill the void at second base.
“He shared time a little bit last year with C.J. Sims, but he is getting back into the swing of it,” Nayman said. “C.J. graduated and Max is off to a great season. I knew it was in him. He just needed to get healthy.”
Holton is currently batting second in the Grizzlies’ lineup.
Nayman is also expecting Austin Smith, a first baseman and backup catcher, to have a breakout season batting in the middle of the lineup.
Creekview is 2-2 this season with wins over River Ridge and West Forsyth and losses to Cherokee and Woodstock. The Grizzlies will face archrival Sequoyah for a non-region game Saturday at Kennesaw State’s Stillwell Stadium.
“We are four games in at this point and I think we played four pretty good games,” Nayman said. “I have seen some things that I have been quite impressed with at times. I think we could have gotten a hit or two when we needed it in games that we have lost, but we are 2-2 and I’m very pleased with where we are at. I’m pretty confident that the things I have seen will continue throughout the season.”
Avery Smith will pitch every third game, while Nayman is hoping for big things from Pickerill and another junior, Jonathan Mouw, who has already committed to Furman.
“We have three guys at the top that can keep us in most games,” Nayman said. “Nick and Chandler can come in from the left side of the infield for a spot start. Case Carmichael, a right-hander, has also made some vast improvements. Those guys will carry the load.”