Rebels prepare for Leroy flamethrowers

Published 10:21 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

By Stephen Dawkins | Assistant Managing Editor

To get ready for the fire they’re sure to see Friday, the Thorsby baseball team cranked up the heat in practices this week.

Class 2A No. 1 Leroy, who will visit Thorsby in the semifinal round of the state playoffs, features as many as three pitchers who approach 90 mph on the radar gun, but with an underdog mentality, homefield advantage and help from a school down the road, don’t expect the Rebels to be intimidated.

“They’re ready to go play,” THS coach Ab Argent said about his team. “There’s a big challenge ahead of us but also a big opportunity.”

Thorsby will surely see Leroy’s top two pitchers—Carlos Delgado and Sammie Coates, who signed to play football at Auburn but could be taken in the Major League Baseball draft—in the weekend series, which will include games at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Friday and a decisive Game 3 at noon Saturday if necessary.

To give his hitters a look at the type of arms they will face, Argent this week enlisted the help of Chilton County High School ace pitcher Chance Calloway and assistant coach Ryan Ellison.

Calloway and Ellison, who starred at Isabella and played college baseball at Troy University, threw against Thorsby batters.

“You get to this stage, you try to mix it up a little bit,” Argent said. “At the same time, what we’ve done has worked, so we haven’t changed too much.”

Though this year marks the furthest Thorsby has ever advanced in the playoffs, Argent said the Rebels are eager to prove they belong among the state’s elite teams.

“We’ve heard from everybody about how good Leroy is,” Argent said. “They are a good team, and we sure do respect them, I promise you that.

“But our kids look at it like we haven’t been given respect. You have to earn respect. They feel we’ve been a good program through the years, and I think we have been. We’re trying to establish ourselves as an elite program.”

Argent said pitching and defense have been consistent for the team this season and that the hitting has improved in the later part of the year.

Ace Cody Carroll has been as dominant as expected, and Argent has several options after him, including southpaw Stephen Mims, Shane Beam, Jason Price and Matt Morgan.

Carroll, in fact, didn’t start either of the two quarterfinal round games against Houston Academy last week but did appear for three innings of relief work.

“I kind of just go on feeling, who I think is throwing best at the time,” Argent said.

The defense has excelled because young players have stepped up in prime positions, like sophomore Parker Bryan at shortstop, junior Mims in center field, sophomore Stuart Scott in left field and freshman Morgan at catcher.

“I think he’s the best catcher in 2A baseball,” Argent said. “I ask a lot of Matt, and I tell myself sometimes, ‘He’s just a ninth grader.’”

Veterans Price (first base), Wesley Smitherman (second), Blake Elkins (third) and Jace Maddox (right field) have been as solid as expected, if not more so.

“Elkins and Price played huge on the corners last week,” Argent said.

The Rebels and their fans know how good they are, and they have the opportunity to prove it to everyone else.

“What more could you ask for than the semifinals at home versus the No. 1 team,” Argent asked. “We look forward to seeing how we stack up.”