The Childersburg Tigers led the way in this year’s All- Talladega County baseball selections among the 4A-5A schools in the county after a season in which they lost just two regular season games. The Tigers (35-4) won the county tournament and made it to the semifinals of the AHSAA playoffs before falling to eventual champions Charles Henderson.
Junior starting pitcher and second baseman Zack Lightsey was voted by county coaches as the 4A-5A Player of the Year. Lightsey finished the season with an 11-2 mark on the mound with a 2.40 ERA and 88 strikeouts. At the plate, he batted .389 with 4 home runs, 36 RBIs, 34 runs, 17 doubles and 2 triples.
“He means a lot to our team and not just him,” Childersburg head coach Chad Slaten said. “We had several people that really, really meant a lot for our team. But he brings so much to the table with his pitching and his hitting and his defense. That’s three things right there that makes for a pretty good day at the ball park. We got that every day. I think he’s very deserving and I’m glad he was chosen by our coaches to get that award.”
Another key member of the Childersburg rotation, Alex Bentley, earned a first team selection. Bentley had an 8-1 mark on the mound with one save, a microscopic 0.95 ERA, and 88 strikeouts. At the plate, the CACC signee had a .385 average with 4 home runs, 27 RBIs, 48 runs, 10 doubles, 4 triples, and 16 stolen bases.
“Alex was almost lights-out on the pitcher’s mound,” Slaten said. “He did pitch really good for us this year, but he’s also our leadoff hitter. He’s also our center fielder and that’s a lot of pressure when you are the leadoff hitter and the center fielder because you’re pretty much controlling the center of the field. He won a lot of ball games off the mound, so I was proud to see him get that and what he brought to our team day in and day out meant a lot to the success we had.”
The third primary member of the rotation, Will Donahoo, also earned a spot on the All-County first team. Donahoo had a 9-1 mark on the mound with a 1.63 ERA and 51 strikeouts. Donahoo also threw a no-hitter early in the season. Slaten praised the CACC signee for always being dependable.
“He was going to throwing strikes, he was going to have three pitches he could control, and he was going to be a bulldog on the mound and you always knew that,” Slaten said. “If you went out to the mound to get on to Will and tell him in how he was throwing, he’d always look at me and say, ‘Coach, I got you,’ and he would always turn it up a notch. I can’t say enough about Will. He’s so much like family. I’m just proud of what he did for our team and what his future holds as far as being a college player.”
Two of Childersburg’s biggest hitters in Peyton Logan and Reeves Brashear earned first team honors. Logan, a CACC signee, batted .420 with eight home runs, 44 RBIs, 40 runs, and 17 doubles. Brashear, a Southern Union signee, batted .382 with nine home runs, 40 RBIs, 36 runs, and 14 doubles. Brashear also saw some time on the mound, going 2-0 with two saves, a 2.30 ERA and 26 strikeouts. Slaten said he watched both guys grow up in the Childersburg family and knew after seeing them play around the age of 12 they had the potential to be special players.
“They came through our program and they’ve been leaders for our team,” Slaten said. “They’ve been close to our family and any time we needed a big hit, we could count on those two guys getting them for us. They had very many clutch hits. They’re also very deserving of the award because of the big hits they had in their careers and what they brought to our team every day. They came to the field every day and they did a great job of leading our team.”
Slaten earned Coach of the Year honors, but he gave credit to his players and assistant coaches.
“These kids have been playing for us for the last four years,” Slaten said. “We kind of get laughed at it when we go to other places and play with as many coaches as we have, but I couldn’t come close to doing what we do without our coaches: Chad Donahoo, my dad Eddie Slaten, Greg Bates, Brian Nelson, Casey Crumpton, and Jason Jacks. Dandy Smith still helped with junior high this year, but he’s been on my staff since I first started coaching back in the early days when it was just me and Dandy. We played high school ball together, we played college ball together and he came back and he’s been part of our program since I started. Any time we get a Coach of the Year award—I don’t care if it’s county, state or whatever—that’s just not Chad Slaten. That’s everybody in our program. I can’t say enough about those guys. Most of them do it for free; they don’t get paid for it. The ones who do get paid, it’s not a whole lot of money. They’re out there for the kids and the love of the game and that’s just awesome.”
Trevor Bates, Tyler Jackson, Justin Baker and Jamel Rosten all earned honorable mention selections.
The Sylacauga Aggies finished runner-up at the county tournament and had another playoff season. The Aggies (18-12) fell in the first round of the AHSAA playoffs to Homewood.
Starting pitcher and center fielder Zach Pearson earned a first team selection. He was 6-2 on the mound with a 1.88 ERA and 63 strikeouts. He also led the team with a .324 batting average and had 38 runs, 33 hits, and 17 stolen bases in the leadoff spot.
“Zach obviously was our No. 1 pitcher coming back,” Sylacauga head coach Mike Gibbs said. “He did a really good job all year and carried us through all of our area games. Statistically speaking, he had a really, really good year, one of the best individual pitching performances for a season we’ve had at Sylacauga in a long time.”
Pearson was another county pitcher who threw a no-hitter.
“We had just lost the first game against Ben Russell and he toed the rubber for the second game and he pitched a no-hitter, a seven inning no-hitter,” Gibbs said. “He had a lot of moments where he shined. A lot of other coaches playing against us when he pitched made comments to me they like the way he pitches and the way he competes. He had a really good year. We’re proud of him getting first team All-County. He really carried us in all of the games he was supposed to. Statistically speaking, he was one of our best players, if not our best player of the year.”
Shortstop Brooks Jackson, who hit in the two-hole behind Pearson, also earned a first team selection. Jackson batted .320 with 21 RBIs, 33 runs, and 31 hits at the plate. He led the team with 62 assists in the field.
“He’s just a really, really good player offensively and defensively,” Gibbs said. “Defensively is where he really shined to me for our team. He played shortstop and I believe he’s the best shortstop that we’ve seen this year. I thought he was as good as anybody that we played against. He made a lot of plays defensively that kept us in tight ball games and got us out of jams several times all during the year.”
The team’s designated hitter, Clay Cleveland, was the third Aggie to earn a first team selection. Cleveland batted .309 with 2 home runs, 27 RBIs, 23 runs, and 25 hits.
“He had a really good year offensively,” Gibbs said. “He hit home runs, drove in a lot of runs for us, had a lot of clutch hits and he was one of those guys where you’d better be careful with him because he’ll stick it to you when he gets the chance to play. He shined offensively in the DH spot, which is the role we asked him to do and he was proud to do that and help his team. Clay probably did some of his best hitting of the year in the most important games. In our area games, it seemed like he was the one doing most of the damage offensively as far as knocking in runs and getting timely hits.”
Hunter Johns, Allen Wilson, Will Green, and Tanner Cleveland all earned honorable mention selections.
The Munford Lions had another strong year, pushing third-ranked Oneonta to the brink before falling 5-4 in a decisive game three of the opening round of the AHSAA playoffs. Noel Stephens’ Lions (16-12) had two first team selections with pitcher and left fielder Casey Goins and center fielder, leadoff hitter and pitcher Logan Kirk representing Munford on the first team. Logan Cooper, CJ Chapman and Brett Haynie all earned honorable mention selections.
Lincoln showed great improvement this season under first-year head coach Clark Jinks. The Golden Bear finished with an 11-17 overall record and were 3-3 in area play. The team’s leading pitcher Zay Caldwell was the lone representative on the first team. Greg Stephens earned an honorable selection.
The Talladega Tornadoes had Barrett Hutto, Austin Shiflet, and Brandon Smith earn honorable selections.