YEAR IN REVIEW: Trojans historic run at third state title comes up short, while Patriots fall in first round
Published 3:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015
The 2015 baseball season saw an end to a historic run of success while also saying good bye to a loving coach.
After winning back-to-back AHSAA state titles in 2013 and 2014 the Charles Henderson Trojans did all they could to return in 2015. After finishing the regular season with an astonishing 31-2 record the Trojans made it to the quarterfinals and a date with the St. Paul Saints in Mobile.
After splitting the first two games of the best two-out-of three the Saints were too much for the Trojans and beat them 10-5, ending the Trojans’ historic run.
“I hope our guys understand what a privilege this was,” said former head coach Derek Irons. “No. 1 vs. No. 2 does not happen much. The reality is the things that have been done by our program in the past. We expected to go deep in the playoffs but it’s not guaranteed.”
The 2015 season was a time to say goodbye to their seniors Chase Smartt, Austin Ingram, Jason Fleming, Wright Graning, Cole Wilson and Reilley Fox that have shared in so much success in the last four years. Smartt concluded an incredible career with a stellar season. The senior catcher put up a .523 batting average, while racking up 58 hits in 111 bats.
Smartt was named the Messenger All-Area player of the year and was selected as a Perfect Game Honorable Mention on the All-American Southeast-All Region second team list. After the conclusion of the season, Smartt decided to attend Troy University and play for his father and current head coach Mark Smartt.
Fox also agreed to play baseball at the next level when he signed to play at Jefferson Davis Community College.
The conclusion of the season also brought an end to the Irons era at Charles Henderson. During his seven years with the Trojans, Irons racked up 221 wins and two state titles.
Trojan alumni and assistant coach William Teal has taken over for Irons, who is now the head coach at Oak Mountain High School.
The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots were competitive all season long and finished in second place to the eventual AISA State Champions, Monroe Academy. The Patriots flirted with the .500 mark all season long and finished with a 19-18 record.
After finishing in second place behind the Volunteers, the Patriots met up with the Morgan Academy Senators in a best two-out-of-three series. After the two teams split the first two games, the Patriots fell 8-7 after a seventh inning rally fell just short.
At the end of the season the Patriots had to say goodbye to a good crop of seniors that helped lead the Patriots the last four years.
“When it comes to high school baseball you’ve always got to say goodbye to seniors after their last game,” said Patriots head coach Alan Ponder following their loss to Morgan Academy. “Our seniors led us all season long and they did a good job leading us. I hate to see them go. I told them to keep their heads up because they’ve led us all year.”
The Goshen Eagles advanced to the first round of the Class 2A area baseball tournament where they matched up with the Luverne Tigers. In a best of three series the Eagles fell to the Tigers after losing 11-1 and 11-4.
The Eagles began area play with an undefeated record and hopes to ride that momentum into the post season. Unfortunately for the Eagles they ran into a tough Tigers squad in the opening round.
The Eagles fell behind quickly in game one, 7-1. The game ended with an 11-1 win for the Tigers.
The Pike County Bulldogs struggled with consistency and offense throughout the 2015 season. For the second straight season the Bulldogs finished with just two wins. The Bulldogs fell to Slocomb in the opening round of the tournament. Former head coach Tony May believed his team learned plenty.
“We started learning the game,” May said. “The biggest thing was that the game of baseball was learned.”