Promising baseball seasons begin Monday

Published 3:41 pm Friday, February 17, 2012

Chilton County’s baseball teams on Monday will try to pick up where they left off.

The 2011 season was one to remember as all six local teams made their respective state playoffs, and beginning with the first games of the season Monday, there are reasons to think 2012 could be even better.

With school being out for Presidents Day, games are scheduled to begin earlier than usual. Several junior varsity games will begin at 11 a.m.

Chilton County hosts Prattville and Central-Phenix City, with varsity games following the JV at 11.

On the same schedule will be Jemison, who hosts Carver-Montgomery and LAMP.

Verbena will play at Thorsby at 1 p.m., and Maplesville will play at Isabella, with the varsity following the JV game that begins at 11 a.m.

The Isabella-Maplesville game will feature a couple of second-year coaches, Ryan Ellison and Brandon Shanks, respectively.

In Shanks’ first season, the Red Devils advanced all the way to the third round of the state playoffs. Three seniors were lost off that squad.

“That was a huge accomplishment with the young guys that we had step up for us last year,” Shanks said. “When you’ve got a group of kids that have talent and are fun to be around, and they’re coachable on top of that, you couldn’t ask for a better group to work with.”

Another coach about to begin his second year at the helm of a county team, Chris Stano led Verbena last season to its first playoff appearance since 2001.

The reward for this set of Red Devils is beginning 2012 with a trip to Thorsby, who outlasted all local teams last year by making the Class 2A semifinals for the first time in school history.

Both teams return many of the important players off last year’s runs, including Thorsby’s Jason Price, The Clanton Advertiser’s reigning Player of the Year.

Jemison last season made its first playoff appearance since 2006, and Panthers, with at least six returning starters, are eager for even more success.

JHS returns first team All-Area player Cruz Martinez, a shortstop; and second-teamer Alex Campbell, who hits, pitches and plays in the field.

“We’re not inexperienced,” Jemison coach Jason Easterling said. “We’re focused on getting through the first round of the playoffs. We made it last year, but we were a little shell-shocked because we hadn’t been there in a while.”

Chilton County also returns a pair of All-Area players in Cameron Cummings and Craig Headley, both of whom are juniors.

A young Tigers team surprised many by advancing to the third round last season—and like fellow local teams—will be looking for more in 2012.