Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High sophomore Isaac Meador Meador was selected as the District 8-AA Freshman of the Year last season.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High sophomore Isaac Meador Meador was selected as the District 8-AA Freshman of the Year last season.

The Macon County High baseball program is coming off of its first district title since 2007.

The Tigers are hoping that success carries over as they attempt to combat the loss of five seniors from last year's squad.

"When I first took over (in 2015), our kids didn't feel like they could win," Macon County head coach Jason Hudson said. "They had struggled. Last year helped. They realize we are just as good as those other teams.

"Now, they know they can win, but they (this year's players) have to get to that level (of play) and expect to win every game. It puts a target on our back."

Senior Logan Thompson will lead the Tiger pitching staff, and the 2018 all-district honoree returns as the starting shortstop when he's not on the mound. Thompson had a 7-2 pitching mark with a 1.91 earned-run average (ERA), tossing seven complete games over his 10 appearances. The right-hander struck out 77 batters over 62 1/3 innings.

Thompson also had a .298 batting average with 18 runs scored, 17 runs batted in (RBI), 5 doubles and 2 triples.

"He's the leader of the staff," Hudson said. "The other guys kind of follow him. He throws harder. He's low to mid-80s guy. He has decent breaking stuff. He's pitched so much stuff over the years for us that he's not going to get shaken. He's pitched well in big games.

"We need him to step up big-time offensively. He's done okay, but he has to take that next step offensively to keep up that production we've had."

Classmate Trent Cook saw considerable action on the mound last season. Cook -- who had a 5-1 record, three complete games and a 2.80 ERA last season -- is the team's lone left-handed pitcher.

"He has some experience," Hudson said. "He threw some district games last year and threw well. He has really good control and a good breaking ball."

Junior Isaac Belton, junior Connor Trent, sophomore Jordon Steen and sophomore Isaac Meador could also see action on the mound.

"Steen's pitching has progressed," Hudson said. "He doesn't throw hard, but he locates pretty well and his off-speed (pitch) is pretty good."

Meador was selected as the District 8-AA Freshman of the Year last season, producing a .333 batting average with 6 doubles, 20 runs scored and 20 RBI. He played multiple positions, spending the majority of his time at third base, but he is expected to serve as the team's catcher this spring.

"He's caught his whole life," Hudson said. "Kyle (Deering, the team's assistant coach), his uncle, is a catcher. He played other positions last year, because it helped the team out the most. It'll be a smooth transition with him (moving to catcher)."

Belton could catch when Meador pitches or can serve as the shortstop when Thompson pitches. Belton scored 16 runs and drove in 18 last season.

"That's huge to have a super utility guy," Hudson said. "I can pretty much place him where whoever is pitching (normally plays). I have faith in Belton to make a play wherever he is.

"We need his bat to come through. He came through in the clutch last year."

Junior Tyson Dyer, sophomore Hayden Blankenship and freshman Oakley Stinson are all options at first base.

Stinson could also play elsewhere.

"His hitting is better than I thought," Hudson said of Stinson. "He has some pop in his bat. He's athletic, fast … has long legs. We just have to find a position for him."

Junior Cameron Mercer saw limited action last season, but he's expected to be the second baseman this season.

Steen and Trent are battling for playing time at third base, and Belton is an option there as well.

"Connor Trent has surprised me with how he's hit inside, and his arm has gotten stronger," Hudson said.

Senior Kade Allen returns in leftfield. Allen - another all-district selection last season - hit .329 with 21 runs scored, 17 RBI, four doubles and one home run.

"Kade will be solid," Hudson said. "He was all-district last year, and he has the experience and has been in big games. He's a good, solid guy."

Juniors Tanner Gann and Logan Williams are competing for the starting job in centerfield, and Cook and sophomore Ty Lowhorn are options in rightfield. Junior Jon Gammons could also see action in rightfield.

"We're young," Hudson said. "We've not been on the field. The young ones have to realize they're close to playing.

"I'm most concerned about scoring runs. It's just the unknown of having four or five guys in the lineup who haven't had a lot of at-bats."

Hudson -- who was the 8-AA Coach of the Year last season --expects Upperman and DeKalb County to be the teams to beat this season.

"They'll be the top two," Hudson said. "Upperman is solid every year. Their No. 1 pitcher (Will Mabry) has signed with (the University of) Tennessee. They're always good. They're as close to a baseball factory as our district has. They play year-round.

"DeKalb will be solid. They return everybody and won their side last year."

Macon County opens the season by hosting Jackson County on Monday, and the Tigers begin district play with a game at York Institute on March 18.