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Coastal Alabama Players To Watch
February 19, 2013St. Lukes Episcopal School
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Coastal Alabama Baseball Preview: Brent Boyd takes over at Spanish Fort (players to watch)
SPANISH FORT, Alabama – For Brent Boyd, taking over the highly successful Spanish Fort baseball program is definitely a Catch-22 situation.
Boyd, the former Alabama player, inherits a Toros’ team that has won the last three Class 5A baseball titles. He also inherits a slew of expectations.
“It’s a good situation,” said Boyd, 32. “Coach (Tommy Walker) did a great job here. In my mind, he helped make this into one of the top baseball programs in the South.
“Obviously, there is pressure on me to keep us there. But our kids love baseball. They expect to win here, and that’s good. That’s one less battle. We have fantastic kids who have worked hard and a fantastic administration. I expect us to do well.”
Walker left last spring to become head baseball coach at 6A powerhouse Vestavia Hills. The Toros promoted Boyd, who was an assistant on last year’s title team.
Boyd played infield at Alabama from 1999-2002 and spent two years as a graduate assistant before going into the restaurant business. However, after several years away from the sport, he craved to be back on the baseball field.
He sold his interest in Moe’s Original BBQ in Daphne to his partner and joined the Toros as Walker’s hitting/infield instructor.
“I missed baseball and just wanted to get back involved,” Boyd said. “I was fortunate to find a great situation at Spanish Fort.”
The Toros beat Southside-Gadsden in Montgomery for the championship last year and have won 201 games in the program’s short history. However, experience will be in demand this season. Only four players return from last year’s team, which starts the season with just 12 total on the roster.
Returnees Jesse McCord and Will Luft will anchor the pitching staff and the infield. However, Blaine Crain, the championship series MVP a year ago, Joel Poe and Matt Hall all decided to concentrate on football and not return to the baseball team.
“It was a good split,” Boyd said. “Those guys wanted to focus on football. Blaine and Joel wanted to focus on doing what they need to for college, and Matt on his senior year. I told them I understood and to do their thing.”
Boyd expects his roster to grow when some younger players, who will start the year on the junior varsity, gain needed experience in the Spanish Fort program. However, he is in no way downplaying expectations in his first year as head coach.
“The guys we have are a very close, tight-knit group,” he said. “I think we will be fine. Pitching and defense won it for us last year, and we expect those things to be our strengths again. We should be a better hitting team as well, but we’re not going to rely on that. We are going to be good on the mound and good on defense and see where that leads us.”
The Toros open the season this week in the 16th BayBears High School Baseball Classic.
Here is a quick look at a few other storylines in the area as the season opens:
ROBBINS RETURNS: Andy Robbins is back. The veteran coach, who started at St. Paul’s in 1987 and also had stints at Faith Academy and Mobile Christian, returned to the Saints this year to replace Shane Sullivan as baseball coach.
HALL OF FAMER AT WORK: Mike Szymanski enters his 28th year as Satsuma’s head baseball coach and has added a new title to his resume – Hall of Famer. The veteran coach was inducted into the Alabama Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame this winter. He has a head coaching record of 546-266, including the 1988 state championship and a runner-up finish in 1992.
SENIORS AT ST. LUKE’S: The Wildcats have the first senior class in school history and should again be contenders for the Class 1A state title. Tim Becker’s team made it to the semifinals two years ago and lost to Shoals Christian in the finals last year. Look for seniors Dalton Becker, Justin Ware and Chris Enger to lead the way for St. Luke’s.
BAYBEAR CLASSIC: The 16th Annual BayBears Classic starts Monday at six different sites. Games will be played at Robertsdale, Foley, Davidson, Baker, McGill-Toolen and Mary Montgomery. The tournament includes 24 teams. Two games each will be played at those sites Monday-Wednesday. The tournament then moves to Hank Aaron Stadium Thursday-Monday. The title game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 with an if necessary game to follow. Fairhope has won the last four Classics. The Pirates will start the week at the Robertsdale site.
BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH
Casey Hughston, Baker (3B): Alabama signee; Hit .391 with four homers and 29 RBIs as a junior.
Kevin Davis, T.R. Miller (P): Auburn signee; Two-time Class 3A Pitcher of the Year
Justin Ware, St. Luke’s (CF): 1A All-State and All-Region a year ago.
Drew Dismukes, St. Luke’s (P/1B): All-State, All-Region honorable mention in 2012.
Beecher Faust, Fairhope (P/2B): South Alabama signee; 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA last year.
Hunter Ellenburg, Fairhope (P/SS): Alabama Southern signee; Hit .329 a year ago.
Corey Childress, Fairhope (P/OF): 3-2 with four saves and a 2.90 ERA
Jesse McCord, Spanish Fort (P/IF): Earned a complete-game victory in the clincher against Southside-Gadsden last year
Will Luft, Spanish Fort (P/IF): Drove in four runs in a 6-1 victory in last year’s championship game in Montgomery
T.J. Dixon, UMS-Wright (CF): Samford signee; Hit .390 with 31 SBs as a junior.
Troy Dixon, UMS-Wright (SS): First-team All-State football player; Hit .432 with 14 SBs as freshman.
Justin Butterworth, Satsuma (P): 4-2 with 1.67 ERA and 25 strikeouts last year.
Brian Settle, W.S. Neal (P): Alabama Southern signee
Kade Suther, Mobile Christian (P): Lurleen B. Wallace signee; 7-5 with 3.28 ERA in his career.
Drew Larrimore, Clarke Prep (P/IF): AISA All-Star. Hit .462 as a junior
Devin Adams, Vigor (P/3B/1B): Junior quarterback is 6-foot-3, 215 and plays all over the infield.
M.J. Morrisette, Davidson (P/3B): Senior hit .417 with nine homers and 32 RBIs.
Paul Chisolm, Davidson (C): Senior hit .387 and struck out just six times in 121 Abs.
Jae Skoda, Faith Academy (OF): Hit .402 with 23 runs scored and 12 SBs.
Caleb Lopes, Faith Academy (SS): Hit .348 with 31 runs scored.
Hayden Roberts, Alma Bryant (P/INF): Alabama Southern signee; 5-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 50 innings pitched.
Matt Barton, Jackson (P): 34 Ks in 52 innings pitched; 2.15 ERA
Brandon Goins, Baldwin County (C/P/CF): Jeff Davis signee