Wolves pace 1-3A All County baseball team
by ERICH HILKERT
The Fayetteville Wolves didn’t meet the high standards that they expect to reach each season, but nonetheless they were still one of the top teams in the Class 1A.

The Wolves made their fifth straight playoffs appearance and they won their fourth straight area championship. The team made it past the first round in the AHSAA 1A playoffs, but was eliminated by area foe Shades Mountain Christian to end their season.

For their efforts, the Wolves had nine players earn a spot on the 2013 1A-3A All Talladega County baseball team including three players on the first team and the 1-3A Player of the Year Zach McGrady.

Throughout his high school career, McGrady has shined the brightest in the postseason and that didn’t change this season. The 1-3A Player of the Year took the ball in the opener of the Class 1A playoffs and proceeded to throw a one-hit shutout for the win.

“In the playoffs, he had a real good game there against Southeastern,” Fayetteville head coach Morris Phillips said. “It’s probably one of the best games he’s ever pitched. He gave up only one hit. He always does really well for us in the playoffs. He’s going to be truly missed and somebody that is a hard person to replace.”

McGrady earned the spot as the Wolves’ ace pitcher, as he led the team in strikeouts with 62, but McGrady also had a strong season at the plate, leading the Wolves in runs scored with 35, leading the team in RBIs with 25, and leading the team in stolen bases with 44, all while sporting a .333 overall batting average.

On the defensive side, Fayetteville leaned heavily on senior first baseman Hunter Garner.

“Garner did a fantastic job for us at first base,” Phillips said. “He saved us and kept us in games just by his defense alone. He saved a lot for us. Throwing the ball in the dirt, he was able to scoop and pick them. He was like a block wall over there and nothing was going to get by him.”

Meanwhile, the Wolves got a lot out of Levi Blanchard at the plate. He finished second on the team with a .372 batting average and led the team in home runs with three.

“Levi was predominantly designated hitter for us and he made the team basically off his bat,” Phillips said. “He really hit the ball well for us. He’s just a sophomore. He’s got two more years to improve. Hopefully, he’ll come back next year and be hot again and keep his bat going. We’ll work with him some more on his defense and his pitching. We feel like he can come back and help us out a lot, on the mound especially.”

The Wolves also had six players to earn spots on the honorable mention team: Austin Brasher, Weston Brassell, Slade Scroggins, Tyler Pennington, Steve Brasher, Mason Vick.

B.B. Comer and Winterboro were teams that may not have finished with impressive overall records, but impressed others with the way they played this season.

Winterboro head coach Brandon Brown was selected as Talladega County Coach of the Year for the 1A-3A classifications.

“Honestly, I’m just glad people don’t pay as much attention to the wins and losses as they do the progress, because I feel like I made a ton of progress in four years,” Brown said. “Those accolades are never your goal. For me, it was just to set out to teach some kids to love to play baseball, and I feel like I’ve done that in four years. By no means is my career over or complete, but it’s nice to get some recognition for helping these kids to discover the game and learn to play it well.”

Colby Wheeler, Winterboro’s starting catcher, finished the season with a batting average above .500. Wheeler went 27 for 53 from the plate. He recorded six doubles; two triples, a home run and he drove in 10 RBIs for the Bulldogs this season.

“Numbers-wise, he’s probably one of the better players in the state,” Winterboro head coach Brandon Brown said. “It’s kind of hard to argue with a .509 batting average. He was more than just a good player on the field; he was a good leader in practice as well. My favorite part about him as a player is he can do anything that he needed to do to help the team win: any position, he would hit anywhere in the lineup, it didn’t matter. He just wanted to do what was best for the team and I respect him for that.”

Taylor Garrett earned first team honors as a third baseman. Garrett had a .439 batting average and a .707 slugging percentage for the Bulldogs. Brown said Taylor was another Winterboro player who was willing to do whatever was in the best interest of the team.

“He started out as our everyday center fielder,” Brown said. “He’s a good enough athlete that he can play center field for anybody. Later on down the line in the year, we needed somebody to play third base because we weren’t getting as many fly balls as we originally thought we would. So, he kind of stepped up and said ‘I’ll play it.’ He actually came to me on the bus on the way to Munford and told me ‘I’ll play third base if you need me to,’ and he did and he did a good job.”

Casey Goins earned first team honors as a utility player. The sophomore had a .400 batting average this season. On the mound, he led Winterboro with 49 strikeouts.

Goins provided the team with an innate sense of leadership.

“He’s like having a coach on the field,” Brown said. “He’s the best leader I think I’ve ever coached and he’s just a natural leader. He’s just a sophomore, but he took over the team this year in a good way. All the kids looked up to him. He made my job as a coach easier because he could a lot of things out on the field that I couldn’t do from the dugout.”

Winterboro had three players to earn spots on the honorable mention team: Jonathan Harris, Brady Wideman, and Nick Leonard.

B.B. Comer made steps towards becoming one of the best small schools in the area. This season, the Tigers defeated Fayetteville twice.

The Tigers had three selections at the middle of the field in centerfielder Tyler Jackson, shortstop Tyler Holmes and second baseman Tristan Sims.

Jackson had a strong sophomore campaign for the Tigers. Jackson had a .402 batting average with two home runs, 15 RBIs and 14 runs scored.

“Tyler is a very good outfielder,” B.B. Comer head coach Evan Blair said of Jackson. “That’s where he’s comfortable playing. He’s great at the plate. I think he hit over .400 at the plate on some pretty good pitching this year. He hit in the three-hole pretty much the whole year. He was a guy in the lineup where you could see he could wait and hit a curve ball and he could hit the ball to the opposite field.”

Holmes came on strong for Comer with a power surge this season. The junior led B.B.Comer with 24 RBIs and 21 runs scored.

“He had the best offensive year he’s ever had,” Blair said of Holmes. “I think he ended up with eight home runs and he almost finished at .400. I think he was at .390. He’s one of the better athletes I’ve ever been around on the baseball field. He can make the toughest plays at shortstop. Then, he kind of gets down on himself and maybe sometimes doesn’t make a play that he ought to make. I think this year may have been his first career home run and he broke out and ended up getting eight before the year was over with.”

Sims led the Tigers in hits this season with 35.

“He actually had more hits than anybody on the team this year,” Blair said of Sims. “Most of his were singles. He ended up moving into the leadoff spot about halfway through the year just because he was putting the ball in play and it never rattled him one bit. He had a lot of 1-for-3 and 2-for-4 games. Even games where we saw some good pitching and had some guys go 0 for 4, he seemed to always be one of the guys that were on base for us pretty consistently. He had a really good year.”

B.B. Comer had four players to earn a spot on the honorable mention team: Cory Harris, Kendrick Kirksey, Caleb Duffee and Zach Osbourn.

The Talladega County Central Fighting Tigers had sub-par season on the diamond, but they had two players earn spots on the All-County team. Corey Morris earned first team honors as an outfielder, while Corey White earned a spot on the honorable mention team.

“Both Corey Morris and Corey White were the leaders of this year’s baseball team,” TC head baseball coach Reginald Jacobs said. “Both players were the oldest guys on the team. Both players led us in batting. Corey Morris had a batting average of .375 with one home run. Corey White had a batting average of .333. They were both the most interchangeable players that we had. They could play any position on the field and they orchestrated the other kids learning their roles. We had so many young kids and they were able to respectively show the kids how to play their position. They both had positive attitudes and they both excelled defensively and offensively for this season.”

The county coaches in classifications 1A-3A selected the All-County baseball team.

© 2013