Local baseball teams in and around Lee County were just settling into the 2020 season when play was halted a week ago today due to the coronavirus. The season remains in flux while the AHSAA monitors the situation into the second week of April.
With officially play on hold, it’s a fitting time to highlight some of the teams and players who showed true promise to start the season. Here’s a list of the area’s standouts starting in AHSAA’s Class 7A and ending with the best of the best in the AISA.
AHSAA Class 7A
Central-Phenix City (10-6) — The Red Devils played several top teams in the early portion of the year and faced nine future Division I pitchers in the process. Despite the challenge, Central still stood out as a top contender in the state’s highest classification.
Pitcher Tyler Haines was one of Central’s studs and put together a 3-1 record with 24 innings pitched, 14 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts and a 1.17 ERA.
At the plate, Caleb Johnson and Cole Kehoe were two of the team’s best hitters. Johnson posted a .378 batting average with a team-high 17 hits. Kehoe, meanwhile, hit .325 with a team-high eight RBIs and was 4-for-4 with three RBIs in the team’s last game.
Auburn High (10-7) — If play ultimately resumes, the Tigers are geared up for a great area race with Central and Smiths Station.
The Tigers faced some top competition — especially during the East Alabama Classic that happened just before play was stopped — and still managed to excel in the batter’s box.
Jay Thomason led the way with a .436 batting average thanks to four doubles, four triples, four home runs and 21 RBIs while also stealing 11 bases. Webb Veronese hit .370 with two doubles, nine RBIs and 16 runs scored while going 8-for-8 in stolen-base attempts, and Will Turner posted a .327 average with three doubles, one triple, two home runs, four RBIs and 17 runs scored.
Opelika (12-6) — The Bulldogs were eager to have a strong bounce-back season this spring and were in good shape through their first 18 games.
Brooks Bryan proved he was an incredibly tough batter to get out by posting a .415 batting average with two home runs and 14 RBIs. Andrew Parr did his part as well by hitting .339 with 20 hits and 10 RBIs.
Parr also pitched a team-high 23.1 innings with a 2-0 record along with 23 hits allowed, 29 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA. Brayden Thomas excelled as well, throwing 19.1 innings with a 2-0 record, 10 hits allowed and a 0.72 ERA.
Valley (7-4) — The Rams were in good shape through 11 games and were one of the last local teams to play at all thanks to a doubleheader against Handley on March 16 during which the two teams walked away 1-1.
Auburn University commit Jackson Sanders was the Rams’ top player to start his freshman season with a .576 batting average and 10 RBIs in addition to 20 innings pitched with 10 hits allowed and 15 strikeouts. Eli Culpepper also had a hot start, hitting .571 with 13 RBIs.
One other Ram, Will Bush, is over the .500 mark courtesy a .545 batting average.
Beauregard (9-4) — The Hornets had high hopes after a strong 2019 season, and the group did not disappoint to kick off Seth Nolen’s first season as head coach.
Cameron Hodges and Ethan Parmer led the way for the Hornets with identical .387 batting average. Hodges had 12 hits, five RBIs, 12 walks, 14 runs scored and five stolen bases, while Parmer had 12 hits, four RBIs, nine walks, 11 runs scored and seven stolen bases. Cason Backmon followed close behind with a .368 average, seven RBIs, five walks, 11 runs scored and seven stolen bases.
On the mound, Ethan Pooler set the standard with a 4-0 record, 23 innings pitched, 35 strikeouts, six walks, two shutouts and a 0.30 ERA. Blackmon was no slouch himself, throwing 25.1 innings with a 2-1 record, 13 hits allowed, six walks, 22 strikeouts and a 0.55 ERA.
If baseball does return, expect the series between Valley and Beauregard to determine the area winner for the second straight spring.
Glenwood (12-3) — The Gators have a rich winning tradition, and it was clear from their first 15 games that the program was ready to make another deep playoff run.
The Gators were ranked third in the ASWA’s latest AISA rankings and were routinely a tough out for their opponents. Bryce Newman led the team with a .429 batting average with four doubles, 17 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Trevor Crisco did his part at the plate as well, hitting .398 with five doubles, 14 RBIs and 13 runs scored.
Another Trevor, Trevor Horne, has done the brunt of his hard work on the mound. Horne was 2-2 with 19 innings pitched, 38 strikeouts, a 1.06 ERA and an opponent batting average of .111. Colten Dempsey held his own on the bump as well, posting a 4-0 record with 26 innings pitched, four walks, 27 strikeouts, a 1.08 ERA and an opponent batting average of .161.
Check back tomorrow for a rundown on the top softball teams and players in the area.