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Jemison opens season with tough games

By Stephen Dawkins

The county’s two largest schools will open their baseball seasons against even bigger competition.
Class 4A Jemison and Class 5A Chilton County will face teams in higher classifications on Monday, the first day state teams can play regular season games.
Jemison coach Jason Easterling and Chilton County coach Josey Shannon said playing tough competition early in the season could pay off down the road.
“Any time you get to see better competition, it just gets you ready for your area play,” Easterling said.
Easterling’s Panthers will host Class 3A LAMP and Class 6A Stanhope Elmore. Jemison’s B-team will play LAMP first at 10 a.m.
Jemison’s and LAMP’s varsity squads will follow at noon, LAMP and Stanhope play at 2 p.m., and then Jemison concludes the night by playing Stanhope.
The Panthers will be a young team again this season. The group of freshmen that contributed so heavily last season will be sophomores this time around.
Jemison lost four seniors from last year’s team and will have three this year: centerfielder Jacob Chapman, second baseman Donny Eslinger and right fielder Patrick Sims.
Easterling said he hopes his team will be able to simply put the baseball in play to set the stage for the 3-4-5 hitters of Sims, Jackson Mims and Scott Clements.
Chilton County, meanwhile, will play Hoover and host Tuscaloosa County—both Class 6A teams—on Monday.
The Tigers topped TCHS, 3-2, in a thrilling game to begin the 2009 season.
“I try to keep my kids positive—win, lose or draw—at the beginning of the season because we we’re playing some of the better teams in the state,” Shannon said. “These teams don’t have down years; they just reload.”
Look for CCHS to enjoy a deeper pitching rotation this season. Both of last year’s main hurlers, senior Ben Handley and junior Chance Calloway, are back, but juniors Nathan Hudson and Hunter Hurst, sophomore Weston Harris and freshmen Cameron Cummings and Trevor Thomas have been added to the mix.
Cummings and Thomas are two of the four freshmen (the other being backup catcher and designated hitter Craig Headley, and backup second baseman Tyler Crowson) who will see regular playing time.