Avant leads Pike Liberal to playoffs in more ways than one

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pike Liberal Arts head coach Butch Austin will tell anyone who will listen about his “dang good” shortstop.

Chandler Avant can do it all. In baseball terms he is what is called a “five tool player.” Avant can run, throw, catch, hit and hit with power. But Austin feels the best part of Avant’s game won’t ever be found in a box score or stat report.

“Chandler is the leader of this team,” said Austin. “There is no doubt about that. He is quiet and doesn’t speak unless he is spoken to or until he feels that it is necessary. Chandler is as good of a ball player, and young man, as any player in the state of Alabama. He does a lot of good things for us on the field, but his leadership is one of the biggest.”

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Avant is batting an even .500 during his senior season, and averages reaching base six out of every 10 trips to the plate. He has six home runs and 26 RBIs to go along with 14 doubles, 14 walks and only five strikeouts.

He serves as the Patriots’ lead off man because of his on-base percentage, but Austin feels Avant’s numbers would be off the chart if he batted lower in the order.

“He would probably be the best three hole hitter in the state if we used him there,” said Austin. “We set our lineups based on on-base percentage, and his is just so good that we had to use him in the leadoff spot. If he was batting second or third, there is no telling what he would have done.”

Avant patrols shortstop for the Patriots on most days, and will make an occasional start on the mound when called upon. He is 2-2 on the season on the mound, and a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances.

Avant has struck out 22 batters, while giving up 15 hits and walking just seven, en route to a 1.15 ERA.

But Avant keeps the pitching mindset even when is not on the mound.

“He will call time and go out and talk to the pitcher to calm him down,” said Austin. “He knows how to talk to the guys, and saves us a trip to the mound. We are only allowed three trips per pitcher and having him helps us out. I personally have learned a lot from him, and glad I had the opportunity to coach him.”

Pike plays host to Fort Dale Academy in the second round of the AISA AAA Baseball Playoffs on Thursday.