Gabe White (copy)

Infielder Gabe White led Cane Bay with a .369 batting average last season.

Cane Bay High School’s baseball team won 22 games and a region crown in 2018, eventually advancing to a district final in the postseason. It was a special spring all around as the Cobras won a region for the first time since 2012.

But that was in Class 4A. The Cobras have made the jump up to Class 5A and also have the pressure of replacing 10 seniors.

“We have to find a way to replace our top two starters on the mound and the catcher that handled the pitching staff,” Cane Bay coach Shane Todd said. “We will try and do this while moving up to play with the big boys.”

The Cobras are in Region 7-AAAAA with Wando, Stratford, James Island, Berkeley and Goose Creek. Wando has won a state championship in recent years and Stratford appears to be stocked for a deep playoff run. Berkeley has a winning tradition.

“All good teams start with good pitching, and even though we lost some top-flight talent on the mound, we bring back some very capable arms throughout our staff,” Todd said. “We have a pair of senior pitchers that pitched a number of innings last year and in some big ballgames.”

Senior right-hander John Shelton, a Limestone College signee, and righty Adam Jordan should be reliable starters. Shelton produced solid numbers on the mound, going 4-1 with a 3.50 earned-run average. Jordan was 3-1 with a 0.82 ERA last spring.

Southpaw Gannon Honea, a Limestone College signee, and fellow lefty junior Sean Farrell will get the chance to start on the bump too. Senior righty Noah Panezich, an Erskine College signee, junior righty Kristofer Blanco, junior righty Kyle Fessler, senior righty Tyler Pruitt and sophomore righty Gabe White provide bullpen depth.

White, the second baseman, and outfielder Tyler Pruitt are the top sticks returning. White led the team in 2018 with a .369 batting average and 25 RBIs, with Pruitt right behind at .360 and 23 RBIs. White also stole a team-high seven bases and Pruitt led the squad with 27 runs scored.

Senior DH/1B Trey Ricker batted .328 with 15 walks, 22 RBIs and a team-high eight doubles. Honea, an outfielder, and shortstop Jordan were at .303 and .302 at the dish. Jordan had 15 RBIs and seven doubles.

Kristofer Blanco, the third baseman, and first baseman Panezich will also be key contributors returning in 2019. Blanco batted .292 and had the squad’s lone two home runs while Panezich hit .277 with 14 RBIs and was the toughest Cobras batter to strikeout (8 Ks in 101 plate appearances).

“We return most of our top hitters from a year ago so the expectations are higher than normal for us in producing runs,” Todd said. “We still will rely on being aggressive on the base paths and incorporating our bunt game to put pressure on the other team. Our players have worked hard in the weight room and we have a few guys that can hit for power this year. We are very confident that this group will be able to compete in the lineup one through nine to give us opportunities to be successful.”

More projected starters are senior outfielder Jacob Flesher, outfielder Farrell and sophomore transfer Jamie Dyches. Additional contributors include junior infielder Brady Dolan, junior catcher Jeffrey Markham and junior infielder Shane Craven.

The Cobras play in the Red Bank Invitational at White Knoll High School from Feb. 27-March 2 before beginning the regular season at 7 p.m. on March 8 at home against West Ashley.

They host Bluffton at 1 p.m. on March 9 and travel to Goose Creek to start region play at 6 p.m. on March 11.