Young Patriots improving

Published 3:00 am Friday, April 15, 2016

Under two new head coaches, the Pike Liberal Arts Junior varsity baseball and softball teams saw marketable improvements during the 2016 season.

First year baseball coach Jonathon Valdez led the JV Patriots to a 22-6 record and the doorstep of a championship in the state tournament.

“We did great this year,” Valdez said. “This is a great group of kids. They have been playing together a long time. They needed someone to teach them how to get to the next level. I wanted to sharpen everything they have done.”

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The role of any JV squad is to be the foundation for the baseball program as a whole, giving players the chance to learn the system.

“I remind them that we have to create a foundation,” Valdez said. “That doesn’t mean we are just a development program. We are going to play and we want to win. We create a foundation during practice; it’s like a classroom. You study for a test, and the test is the game.”

The hard work and dedication led the Patriots to the state tournament where they were saddled with playing nine games in a three-day window, including five games on Saturday. The Patriots finished the tournament with a 7-2 record after defeating Kingwood, Glenwood, Lee-Scott, Patrician, Edgewood, Clarke Prep and Morgan. Valdez was impressed with the amount of fight in his team.

“The kids showed me so much, they were so hungry for winning that tournament,” Valdez said. “The kids never showed me they were tired. They showed me a lot of heart and pride. There is nothing better than that.”

Members of the JV Patriots are: Jackson Blair, Payne Griffin, Cole McWhorter, Marx Copeland, Ty Singleton, Jade Sikes, Trevor Barron, Davis Allen, Hunter Keenan, Clay Barron, Tristen Carter, Holt Steed, Cody Hollis, Max Copeland, Scott Taylor Renfroe, JD Wilson, Avery Ernsberger and Landon Thrash. Assisting coaches are Ty Martin and Doug Price.

In 2015 the JV Lady Patriots finished the season with a 1-17 record, this season under first year head coach Robert Rollan the Lady Patriots improved their win record by five games and finished with a 6-8 record.

Rollan had varsity and JV squads practicing with each other throughout the year, to help the younger players learn the system.

“It builds a team and it builds a program,” Rollan said. “The JV players look up to those girls. They are able to watch them. The older girls are able to bond with the younger girls, and it’s a big deal.”

The Patriots started the season 1-5 and the message from Rollan to the players was relax and play ball. After competing hard at the Macon East Tournament, the Patriots were 5-3 and softball once again became fun.

“It makes softball fun,” Rollan said. “It makes all the work they do, worth it. It reinforces what we believe in.”

The Patriots picked up big wins in the second half of the season against Hooper’s B team as well as Emmanuel’s B team with a varsity pitcher on the mound.

The wins down the stretch were against teams that featured numerous freshman and sophomores.

“To beat a team that featured four or five tenth-graders builds enthusiasm,” Rollan said. “It also builds enthusiasm for the young kids who are in the sixth grade because they see these kids having fun and winning and they want to have fun.”

Member of the 2016 Lady Patriots JV team are: Sara Elizabeth Calhoun, Railyn Williams, Mallory Clifton, Reagan Brown, Ashlyn Atwell, Dannah Dawson, Dekota Lassiter, Maggie Phelps, Peyton Sasser, Olivia Barron, Grace Rushing, Shelby Rushing, Morgan Bundy and Emily Williamson.