2019 proved to be a successful season for area baseball programs.
Talladega County saw three of its four schools in Class 4A-5A make the postseason, a showing that included one squad reaching the semifinals.
The success of those teams didn't go unnoticed as they were well-represented on the large school All-Talladega County Baseball Team.
Sylacauga came up just short of its ultimate goal of going to Montgomery to play for a state championship.
The Aggies finished 23-10. Sylacauga defeated Ramsay, St. Paul’s and Bibb County in the playoffs, but its magical season came to an end against Briarwood in the 5A semifinals.
“It (the season) was better than we expected,” Sylacauga head coach Jeff Bell said. “We knew that we had a lot of the parts coming back, but we really beefed up the schedule.
“There were actually a lot of struggles early on. We fought through some injuries.
“They just kind of stayed the course early in the season and figured it out (and clicked) halfway through the season. They just kept winning, kept winning and kept winning.”
For its efforts, Sylacauga had seven players selected to the 4A-5A All-Talladega County Team, including the Player and Coach of the Year.
Jordan Ridgeway was selected as 4A-5A Player of the Year. The Aggies’ leadoff hitter had a stellar season at the plate. The junior led Sylacauga with seven homers, 33 RBIs and 34 runs.
Ridgeway played a major role in leading the Aggies to the 5A semifinals. Against Ramsay in the first round, he hit three home runs in two games. The honorable mention all-state selection also hit a solo homer in Sylacauga’s series sweep of No. 1-ranked St. Paul’s.
“I just put in the work,” Ridgeway said. “I worked hard after practice. I spent time hitting in the cage and fielding ground balls after practice … I wasn’t thinking about it (being Player of the Year). I was just out there playing the game for my teammates.”
Bell said the impact Ridgeway made goes beyond the box score.
“What Jordan did was pretty special,” Bell said. “That’s going strictly by the numbers that he puts up. What doesn’t get talked about as much is how good of a defensive player that he is, how good of a base runner that he is and really what kind of spiritual leader he is for the team.
“He shows up every day and he has fun. That has an effect on the team, especially when one of them is not having a good day or when I am in a bad mood at practice, he keeps it moving in the right direction.”
Nick Mauldin earned a first-team all-county nod. The all-state honorable mention selection led the Aggies in extra-base (13 doubles and three homers). The Talladega County Tournament MVP had a .384 batting average with 24 RBIs in 2019.
Zack Dew, Daylon Keith, Tyler Thompson and Payton Natali were also first-team selections for the Aggies.
The Aggies skipper was recognized as the 4A-5A Coach of the Year for the second season in a row. Bell said this honor wouldn’t have been possible without his coaching staff and a great group of players.
“It’s an honor and I am flattered by it,” Bell said. “It is a byproduct of having really good kids, not talented kids, but good kids that buy into what you want to do.
“I think it means a little more to be recognized by your peers because we all know what each other goes through. That recognition will probably mean more to me when I stop coaching.”
Munford also had a solid 2019 season. The Lions finished 16-19 and advanced to the first round of the playoffs in their first season in 5A.
Munford had five players make the all-county team.
Talladega College signee Payton Graben was a first-team selection for the Lions. Dawson Strickland, Dakota Green, Drew Harkins and Lawson Molden also earned first-team honors.
Lincoln earned a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2012. The Golden Bears (12-12) won the 4A, Area 9 title and hosted the first round of the playoffs for the first time in since 1999.
Lincoln fell to Cherokee County in the first round.
The Golden Bears had six players selected all-county. Dawson Jackson, Jack Wood and Tristian Payton received first-team nods for Lincoln. Jarrod McBurnett, Jordan New and Austin Creamer were named honorable mention.
Childersburg had four players make the all-county squad. James Luker, Austin Douglas and Austin Hollis earned first-team honors. Jordan Fomby was named honorable mention.
The all-county team was selected by county coaches.