2019 North Jefferson News Baseball Player of the Year:
Hayes Haygood—senior pitcher/outfielder, Gardendale
When the toughest opponents came to town, Gardendale head coach Ryan Keedy called on his senior lefty.
“He was definitely somebody that we needed and somebody we counted on,” said Keedy of Hayes Haygood. “He just delivered every time he went out there; it was quality start after quality start.”
Haygood, a Bevill State Community College signee, was instrumental in the Rockets’ quarterfinal playoff run and that’s why he stands alone as the 2019 North Jefferson News Baseball Player of the Year.
The senior drove in the game-winning run against Hartselle in the second round of the playoffs after pitching six innings of two-hit ball against the Tigers. Haygood went for three hits and as many RBIs as Gardendale completed a two-game road sweep at Sparkman Park.
He finished the year with a batting average of .357 to go with 17 walks, 29 RBIs and 24 runs scored.
“He’s a tough kid and he was the best contact guy we had,” said Keedy. “He was able to put it in the gap if he wanted to, he was able to bunt, he was able to hit-and-run and really do anything we asked him to do at the plate.”
“There’s more to hitting than just going up there and trying to hit a ball as hard as you can. You have to have a plan and you have to be able to execute your plan and Hayes did a really good job of listening to coaching and just being talented,” said Keedy. “The greatest coach in the world can come tell you what to do but if you don’t have the talent to do it, it doesn’t matter.”
Some of that talent was accentuated by a growth spurt between his junior and senior seasons. Those two or three inches added two or three numbers to his fastball.
He pitched 61 2/3 innings for the Rockets in 2019, resulting in 73 strikeouts and a 2.16 ERA.
Below is a rundown of the 2019 All-North Jefferson News Baseball Team.
Brayden Rowe—junior pitcher/shortstop, Corner
Rowe was a big contributor for the Yellow Jackets on their way to the Class 5A postseason. Both on the mound and at the plate, Rowe delivered for the first-round playoff club in 2019.
The junior hit for an average of .390 on his way to 10 doubles, six home runs and 27 RBIs. He also surrendered 14 earned runs and struck out 54 batters in 41 2/3 innings pitched.
For his efforts, Rowe has been named a second-team member of the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Baseball Team.
Garrison McCleney—junior center fielder, Mortimer Jordan
McCleney scattered 41 hits on Mortimer Jordan opponents last season and matched Player of the Year winner Hayes Haygood with a batting average of .357.
The younger brother of former Alabama softball star Haylie McCleney and current Alabama baseball outfielder Walker McCleney, Garrison went 26 of 27 on stolen base attempts in 2019. He also notched nine doubles, three home runs and 28 RBIs for the Blue Devils.
Brody Petix—senior catcher, Mortimer Jordan
Stealing a bag on Petix was unlikely last season. Mortimer Jordan head coach Shayne Carnes said his senior was the best defensive catcher he saw on a high school field in 2019, and the high praise is understandable considering Petix shot down 21 of the 23 stolen base attempts against him.
Petix was essentially a brick wall for Mortimer Jordan pitching, as he allowed only two passed balls in 29 starts behind the plate. He finished with a fielding percentage of .964 and an on-base percentage of .418.
Hunter Stokes—senior center fielder/pitcher, Gardendale
Both as a pitcher and a position player, Stokes was an integral cylinder in the engine that ran Gardendale to its deepest playoff run since 2005.
The righty posted a record of 5-1 on the rubber and added two saves in 36 innings pitched. On the offensive side, Stokes hit for an average of .319 to go with three triples and 17 runs scored.
Tanner Hayes—junior pitcher/shortstop, Corner
It proved difficult to scratch a run across on the Jackets when Hayes (8-1) had the ball. The right-hander pitched a Corner-high 44 1/3 innings last season, allowing only 15 earned runs to go with 41 strikeouts.
Logan Duffner—freshman shortstop, Mortimer Jordan
As a freshman at Mortimer Jordan, Duffner was able to hold down the starting role at shortstop, and for good reason.
Duffner doubled six times, drove in 21 runs and finished with a .353 batting average in 20 starts for the Blue Devils in 2019.
Trip Horton—junior second baseman, Mortimer Jordan
Few swung the bat better than Horton last season. The junior hit for an average of .352 with 37 hits, including seven doubles, and 35 RBIs. He finished the season with an on-base percentage of .466.
Garek Hall—senior left fielder, Mortimer Jordan
Hall reached first base a lot in 2019, and often took different paths to get there. He was struck by 20 pitches, recorded 17 walks and swung for an average of .337.
In total, Hall found his way on base more times than not and capitalized with 21 stolen bases and 44 runs scored for the Blue Devils.
Keegan Hudson—senior utility, Gardendale
Hudson posted a batting average of .315 and an on-base percentage of .471 as a senior for the Rockets. He drew 23 walks and scored 32 runs.
Garrett Purvis—senior center fielder, Corner
Purvis finished his senior season with a .337 batting average to go with seven extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases and 20 runs scored for the Class 5A, Area 11 runner-up.
Colt Belcher—senior left fielder/pitcher, Gardendale
Before suffering a season-ending injury in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, Belcher scored 22 runs and drove in 18 more for Gardendale. He posted a 0.93 ERA in 15 innings pitched to go with three saves for the Area 11 champions.
Joe Smith—senior pitcher, Pinson Valley
Smith struck out 46 batters in 39 innings of work for Pinson Valley last season. The senior posted a record of 4-3 and finished with a 2.6 ERA.
Drew Rickles—senior designated hitter, Pinson Valley
As a designated hitter for the Indians, Rickles delivered with a .326 batting average and a .466 on-base percentage. He drove in 26 runs and scored 23 runs of his own.