Lee-Scott’s Ponder named Mr. Baseball

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 2, 2002

Special to


Lee-Scott Academy ‘s Allen Ponder has looked up to major league pitcher Tim Hudson for years.

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Like Ponder, Hudson played high school baseball in the Alabama Independent School Association.

"I don’t think enough people realize just how good baseball is in the AISA," said Ponder, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound pitcher/first baseman from Auburn who was chosen by the Alabama Sports Writers Association as Mr. Baseball for the 2002 season. "I know our team could have beaten a lot of teams (in the AHSAA). "

Hudson, who was chosen the ASWA’s amateur and professional athlete of the year while at Auburn University and with the Oakland Athletics, played high school baseball at Glenwood Academy of Phenix City, one of Lee-Scott’s chief AISA rivals.

"Tim Hudson is someone who let me know that I could accomplish anything," said Ponder, who became the first AISA player ever to claim one of the ASWA’s major prep awards. Ponder is expected to be drafted in the professional baseball draft next Tuesday in the top five rounds. He said scouts have indicated he could go anywhere from the second to the fifth round. His high school coach Lee Harper said he has been told he might even go in the first round.

Ponder led Lee-Scott to a 31-5 record this past season as he turned in the league’s best prep pitching season ever. He was 12-0 with only three runs allowed in 79 2/3 innings ­ just one earned ­ for an AISA record 0.09 ERA. He struck out 139 batters and walked just seven. He yielded only 31 hits while hurling 10 shutouts and two no-hitters. As a hitter, he batted .411 with an AISA-leading 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

Career-wise, Ponder smashed virtually all the AISA pitching and hitting records. He went 37-6 with three saves in 283 innings with 464 strikeouts and a 1.16 ERA. He walked only 68 while pitching five no-hitters including one perfect game. As a hitter, he had 171 hits in 331 at bats with 49 career home runs, 33 doubles, 168 RBIs and 90 walks. More than 70 percent of his walks were intentional. His on-base percentage was .623, and his career batting average was .517.

Ponder’s selection as Mr. Baseball came as quite a surprise to him. "I didn’t really expect this," he said. "I can thank my teammates. We had one of the best defensive teams around. They were always there to make the plays."

He said he had three goals when the season started. The first was to beat AISA nemesis Faith Academy of Mobile, then make the state playoffs and finally to win the state title. He beat Faith for the first time during spring break with a no-hitter and 19 strikeouts. He blanked the Rams again in the Final Four. His grand-slam home run in the first round of the Final Four lifted Lee-Scott to an 8-5 victory to set up Ponder’s shutout of Faith in game two. Lee-Scott won the state title one day later.

"I have always been a Braves fan," said Ponder, who signed last November with the University of Alabama. "But I don’t really care which team drafts me. If I go high enough, then I will look seriously at signing. If not, I am very happy about picking Alabama."

Harper said Ponder, who went 9-1 last summer playing for East Cobb of Atlanta against the top prep talent in the nation, "is the best high school baseball player I’ve seen in over 30 years. I grew up here and saw Joe Beckwith and Ron Lee Jackson (both eventual major leaguers). I think Allen is better at this point than both of them were. He can pitch and he can hit."

Ponder headlines the ASWA’s annual All-State Super 12 team as well as the AISA team as player of the year. Joining him on the Super 12 are pitchers Clark Jinks of Childersburg, Wes Todd of Muscle Shoals, Daniel Forrer of Jeff Davis, Chris Dennis of Bob Jones, Josh Cowan of Tanner and pitcher/shortstop Evan Bush of Southside-Gadsden. Also chosen are catcher Trey Lavender of Pelham, shortstop Ronny Woods of G.W. Long, center fielder Jeff Butts of Daphne, catcher Josh Morgan of Thomasville and center fielder Chadley Farley of Dadeville. Pike Liberal Arts School senior Layton Sanders was named honorable mention as a pitcher to the AISA team.

Selected players of the year in each classification were: Butts of Daphne (6A), Todd of Muscle Shoals (5A), Jinks of Childersburg (4A), Farley of Dadeville (3A), Cowan of Tanner (2A), Woods of G.W. Long (1A) and Ponder (AISA).

Named coaches of the year were Pelham’s Mike O’Berry (6A), Cullman’s Bryan Bowen (5A), Childersburg’s Chad Slaten (4A), Dadeville’s Randy Nolen (3A), West End of Walnut Grove’s Chad Hall (2A), Athens Bible’s Bill Murrell (1A) and Lee Harper of Lee-Scott (AISA).