DSC_9443.jpg

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Edgewood’s K.J. Hollenquest rounds third base during a game against Chambers.

This is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of every area team’s senior class as their senior seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will culminate in Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.’s Virtual Senior Night. For more information, visit www.thewetumpkaherald.com. 

There was not an easy path for Edgewood’s seniors to take over the course of their high school careers. From transfers and new coaches to injuries and a global pandemic, all four members of the Class of 2020 had several hurdles to clear but each of them pushed through and have set themselves up to continue playing baseball and further their educations in college. 

Both Kam Burleson and Luke Sisson have signed to play at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College next season while Cade Bazzell and K.J. Hollenquest are both mulling over multiple offers.

“Our four seniors held everyone else accountable and they showed a lot of leadership,” Edgewood coach Justin Jones said. “They were the first ones out there and made sure they were doing what to do. It makes it easier as a coach to have a group of guys to help with that.”

Jones was the third head coach these seniors had during their high school careers. There was not a lot of stability at the helm of the program, so that forced them to take on leadership roles early on.

“It’s very important to have guys like that when you’re coming in and taking over a program,” Jones said. “It takes the seniors to buy in to what you’re bringing in as a coach to really implement it. When they did that, everyone else seemed to follow suit.”

Sisson started his varsity career strong and never looked back. Over his four years with the Wildcats, Sisson posted a .345 batting average and contributed 68 innings on the mound. After his senior season, he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Elmore County Superlatives.

“Luke threw a bullpen during tryouts and I looked at my assistant and said this kid was going to be special,” Jones said. “He’s talented but mixed in with that is he is a hard worker. Being someone who has played at the next level, talent will only get you so far. You have to have a strong work ethic too and he has that.”

Burleson will be joining Sisson on the same squad next season but all of his work is expected to come on the mound. Burleson has spent four years playing a key role in Edgewood’s pitching staff, posting a 3.81 ERA in 103 2/3 innings.

Because he was also playing basketball, Burleson did not have time to get his arm completely in shape before the coronavirus shut down the rest of the schedule. However, Jones said Burleson has always been focused on the long run and if they had to make the decision to keep him out to save his future again, they would do it.

“We were looking at the big picture,” Jones said. “The thing that impressed me the most was him knowing that situation. He knew it may be a while before he could pitch but he was always in the bullpen working with some of the younger guys. He was doing that extra work instead of hanging his head and that really speaks to his character.”

Bazzell had a very different path during his time at Edgewood. He played on varsity as a freshman but he struggled, finishing with a .174 batting average in 103 plate appearances. Bazzell turned things up a notch in his final three seasons, leading the Wildcats in RBIs.

“Kids really tend to follow him because he’s a natural leader,” Jones said. “We had to have someone before him to get on base so he could knock somebody in and we had to have someone behind him to make other teams throw to him. He has that potential every time he gets up there to hit it hard and make something happen.”

Hollenquest could join Bazzell at the next level as they both have offers from Martin Methodist. After spending just two years at Edgewood, Hollenquest finally appeared on his way to a breakout season before the virus hit. 

His junior season was cut short due to an injury which likely hindered his recruiting process but as a senior, he made the most of his limited playing time. Hollenquest finished with a .407 batting average and an .896 on-base plus slugging percentage in 27 at-bats before the season was cut short.

“I know we have not seen K.J.’s top ability yet,” Jones said. “We worked on so much over the season and it helped him out but he hasn’t tapped into his talent yet. When he figures that out, he can be really special.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.