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P: Drew Nobles, Holtville senior

There were a lot of eyes on Nobles this season after he broke out during his junior year and he rose to those expectations in 2019. As a pitcher, Nobles struck out 108 batters over 64 1/3 innings while posting a WHIP of 0.96 and an ERA of 1.19. When he was not on the mound, he played center field for the Bulldogs and made an impact with his bat and his glove. Nobles led Holtville with an on-base percentage of .573 while hitting four home runs and recording 33 RBIs. “He took on that leadership role this year and he did it the right way,” Holtville coach Torey Baird said. “Our other guys fed off him. When he was playing well, our whole team played well.”

C: Nate Hodge, Stanhope Elmore senior

Hodge provided rare consistency for a struggling Stanhope Elmore team during his final high school season. He finished the year with a .367 batting average and reached base in 51 percent of his 105 plate appearances. Hodge led Stanhope with two homers and 15 RBIs. Behind the plate, Hodge made just two errors and threw out 21 percent of opposing runners on steal attempts.  “We knew what we had with his bat,” former SEHS coach Wes Dunsieth said. “He was hitting the ball so hard that most of them were singles. His biggest thing was getting on base for us and that’s what he had to do to help the team.”

1B: Mason Elmore, Wetumpka senior

Wetumpka did not need its cleanup hitter to provide much power behind Seth Johnson but Elmore did provide consistency at the plate and finished the season as the Indians’ second best hitter. Elmore had only six extra-base hits but recorded a .372 batting average and reached base in 44 percent of his plate appearances. He was also a reliable No. 2 on the mound, recording a 2.88 ERA in 62 1/3 innings for Wetumpka. “We knew he needed to have a big year for us on the mound and also at the plate,” Wetumpka coach Michael Dismukes said. “He really rose to the occasion. We always knew he could hit but we needed him to be consistent in his at bats and he did that.”

2B: Trey Brand, Elmore County senior

Brand split his time between second base and center field for the Panthers but no matter where he was in the field, he was crucial to Elmore County’s offense. Brand spent most of the season as the two-hole hitter, batting .433 and reaching base in 54 percent of his plate appearances. He led the Panthers with 28 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. “He was our spark plug all year,” ECHS coach Michael Byrd said. “He fought for every pitch and just wanted to find a way to get on base. He was always the catalyst for our big innings.”

 

3B: Hunter Martin, Holtville junior

Martin took advantage of having Nobles behind him in the Bulldogs lineup and became one of the better sluggers in the county in 2019. He averaged one extra-base hit every six at bats and finished the year with four home runs, including one in the postseason. He was walked 27 times at the plate while striking out just 24 times. Martin finished with a .370 batting average and a 1.153 OPS. “That improvement this year just talks about his work ethic,” Holtville coach Torey Baird said. “He’s one of those guys you have to run off after practice. He never seems to get tired. He’s just a true competitor at everything he does.”

 

SS: Austin Downey, Elmore County senior

The Elmore County ace may seem out of position and while everyone knew what he was capable of on the mound, Downey showed the most improvement at the plate during his senior year. After hitting below .300 for the Panthers last season, Downey returned to be the team’s leading hitter, finishing with a .437 batting average with four doubles and five triples. On the mound, Downey posted a 1.63 ERA in 55 2/3 innings while striking out 94 batters and throwing two complete game shutouts. “You knew he’d give you a chance to win any game,” Elmore County coach Michael Byrd said. “But at the plate, you could see his confidence level change. He felt more comfortable and there was no spot too big for him. That was the biggest difference for him this year.”

 

OF: Luke Sisson, Edgewood junior

Edgewood did not get a lot of power at the plate from Sisson but he still swung the most productive bat of the season for the Wildcats. The center fielder led the team in hits and batting average while being the only player to record more walks than strikeouts at the plate. Sisson recorded a .389 average and reached base in 45 percent of his 125 plate appearances. He finished second on the team with 26 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. “He was just the most consistent for us,” former Edgewood coach Joey Potts said. “When he was up at the plate, you knew he’d have a pretty good chance of getting on base.”

OF: Taylor Henderson, Elmore County senior

If Elmore County had runners in scoring position, the Panthers knew who they wanted at the plate. In just 78 at bats, Henderson knocked in a team-high 32 RBIs while batting .423 at the plate. He finished the year with two doubles, seven triples and hit Elmore County’s first home run in three years. Henderson finished with a slugging percentage of .846 while adding 28 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. “Every time he came up in a big spot, he hit the ball hard,” ECHS coach Michael Byrd said. “Every time a pitcher made a mistake pitch, he was going to be ready for it. And if he put the ball in play, he was probably going to get on base.”

 

OF: Mikey Forney, Holtville freshman

It would be hard to find another freshman in the state who was as crucial to his team as Forney was for the Bulldogs this season. He led Holtville in hits (41), runs (45) and batting average (.410) while holding down one of the top two spots in the batting order. He saw his batting average rise to as high as .466 during a 15-game hitting streak. Forney had 12 multi-hit games, including a 3-hit game against Dallas County in the postseason. “That’s something that really started last year in the playoffs,” Holtville coach Torey Baird said. “We needed someone to step up and that’s when we knew he was a special player. I’ve never seen another freshman play baseball the way he does. He never gets phased at the plate.”

 

DH: Bruin Hathcock, Tallassee junior

There were times it was difficult to find a bright spot on the diamond for Tallassee this season but you could always find it when Hathcock had the bat in his hands. In just 63 at bats, Hathcock recorded eight doubles and 20 RBIs while posting a .397 batting average. He struck out in only 12 at bats while equaling that number with his walks at the plate. Hathcock finished the year as Tallassee’s leader in hits, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS.

“When you’re hitting in the 3-hole, you have to drive in runs and hit consistently,” Tallassee coach Adam Clayton said. “It was a big year for him but he can be even better. I know he’ll want to work harder this offseason.”

 

Honorable Mention:

Wetumpka — Stephen King, sr., 2B; Kyle Morrison, fr., 3B; Trey Jones, sr., OF; Tallassee — Will Blocker, jr., DH; Elmore County — Landon Maynard, jr., P; Stanhope Elmore — Alex Johnson, sr., OF; Holtville — Chapelle Washam, sr., C; Brylan Shaffer, sr., OF; Edgewood — Cade Bazzell, jr., 1B; Drez Crawford, so., SS.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.