Coach guides Devils in good times and bad

Published 5:26 pm Monday, June 18, 2012

Maplesville coach Brandon Shanks, left, talks to Brandon Abbott during the semifinal round of the state playoffs.

Maplesville’s baseball players this past season did something they weren’t used to: they started the year with the same coach that they ended the previous year with.

Brandon Shanks’ second season at MHS ended a streak of five different coaches in five years.

Perhaps the familiarity played a role in the program’s deepest playoff run since 2001, but the ride wasn’t a smooth one for Shanks, The Clanton Advertiser’s Baseball Coach of the Year, and his players.

Anyone who doubted the Red Devils could make it to the semifinal round of the Class 1A state playoffs–and compete once they got there, losing two games at St. Luke’s by a combined four runs–would start with the team’s inexperience.

There were only two seniors on the roster, though Aron Smitherman and Jared White were talented players with impressive leadership skills.

“We started off the season kind of hot, but then we hit a slump around Spring Break,” Shanks said. “We went up to Fayetteville for a tournament, played all top-knotch 1A teams. That was the first time we had played 1A competition, and I think it opened the guys’ eyes that, ‘Hey, we can compete at this level.’

“There was never a doubt in my mind that we had the talent to do some good things, but sometimes, when you’re dealing with teenagers, it’s getting them to buy into it.”

Shanks had an advantage. Though 2012 was just his second season as head coach, he built relationships with many of the players as an assistant coach from 2009-10.

“When I took over the head job, I talked to the kids, and I think they kind of felt comfortable with me,” he said. “I took on a new role, but I wasn’t a new guy.”

After a solid but unspectacular regular season (the Devils lost as many games as they won), MHS drew a bye in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Devils pounded out 17 runs on 27 hits in two wins over local rival Verbena.