All-Messenger baseball team announced


By Chris McCarthy/Editor

When the Westbrook Christian baseball team was treading water early on this past season, the squad’s senior first baseman was a key factor in keeping the Good Ship Warrior afloat.

Blaine Beaird’s stellar production at the plate was a major spark in Westbrook’s recovery from a 1-14 start, a rebound that included a 14-22 record, a 10th straight area title and a berth in the second round of the state playoffs. Beaird finished with a .496 batting average, 58 hits, 14 home runs, 63 RBI, 33 runs and 18 doubles. He was selected to the Class 2A All-State First Team and was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s 2A Hitter of the Year. 

Beaird earned another honor this week, as he is The Messenger’s 2014 All-Area Baseball Team’s Player of the Year.

Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy points to Beaird’s off-season weight training regime as a big reason for his power numbers. 

“Until this season, Blaine had more of a pitcher/DH type of role, but he put on about 40 pounds of muscle and basically changed his whole game. He got into the weight room and made himself better. That’s kind of hard work is what you look for as a coach when you’re trying to have a successful season. 

“Blaine was also very consistent for us. Even when we were at 1-14 early in the season, he was hitting the ball well. We knew that every ball game we were in, Blaine was going to make a difference at the plate.”

The 6’4, 220-pound Beaird plans on attending Jacksonville State University this fall, where he will attempt to make the baseball team as a walk-on.

As the anchor of the Southside High pitching rotation, senior Drew Mullinax posted a 1.23 earned run average and struck out 60 in 53.3 innings. He allowed only nine earned runs and eight walks. 

Mullinax also was one of Southside’s top hitters, finishing with a .357 averaged with 46 hits, 32 RBI and 29 runs. 

Mullinax was a first team All-State selection and signed a baseball scholarship in May with the University of Montevallo. 

Joining Mullinax on the All-Area pitching staff is Gadsden City junior Neal Collins (50 innings, 1.97 ERA, 55 strikeouts), Southside junior Brock Love (46.3 innings, 2.12 ERA, 73 strikeouts) and Hokes Bluff senior Nick Gaghen (33.1 innings, 1.89 ERA, 24 strikeouts). 

Joining Beaird in the All-Area infield is Southside se-nior catcher Matt West (.432 batting average, 41 hits, 29 RBI, 10 runs), Etowah senior second baseman Caleb Ledbetter (.425 batting average, 30 RBI, 23 steals, .993 fielding percentage), Etowah senior shortstop Chris Steele (.327 batting average, 34 RBI, 28 steals, .996 fielding percentage) and West End senior third baseman Levi Weems (.398 batting average, 39 hits, 23 RBI, 34 runs, 15 doubles).

Manning the utility spot is Hokes Bluff senior Chase Pope, who finished the year with a .443 batting average, .686 slugging percentage, 31 hits, 30 RBI, 21 runs and two home runs.  

The All-Area outfield consists of Southside senior Blake Devine (.424 batting average, 54 hits, 47 runs, 23 RBI, 38 steals), Westbrook senior Jake Kilgo (.404 batting average, 36 hits, 38 runs, 13 doubles, 18 steals) and Southside senior Braxton Light (.328 batting average, 42 hits, 30 RBI, 32 runs). 

Second team pitching honors went to Gadsden City senior Britton Reynolds (68.3 innings, 1.74 ERA, 56 strikeouts), Southside junior Tyler Burke (50.7 innings, 2.21 ERA, 51 strikeouts), Gaston senior Alexander Allen (28.1 innings, 4.4 ERA, 27 strikeouts), Glencoe sophomore Dalton Roberts (3.22 ERA, 6-2 record) and Southside junior Lakota Leeke (36 innings, 1.17 ERA, 43 strikeouts). 

The second team infield features Gadsden City senior catcher Matthew Bishop (.356 batting average, 32 hits, 17 RBI), Westbrook sophomore first baseman Kyle Leonard (.429 batting average, 33 hits, 22 RBI, 17 runs), West End senior second baseman Austin Russell (.419 batting average, 39 hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs), Southside junior shortstop Hunter Clough (.320 batting average, 39 hits, 33 RBI, 24 runs) and Hokes Bluff junior third baseman Chase Beggs (.470 bating average, 39 hits, 33 runs). 

At designated hitter is Gaston junior Gabe Crain, who batted .471 along with 33 hits, 17 RBI, 19 runs and 18 steals. 

The second team outfield includes Etowah senior Tanner Putnam (.333 batting average, 28 RBI, 20 steals, .995 fielding percentage) Westbrook junior Ethan Campbell (.374 batting average, 37 hits, 15 RBI, 24 runs) and Glencoe junior Andrew Willis (.421 batting average, 32 hits).  

Editor’s note: the members of the 2014 All-Messenger baseball team were selec-ted based upon statistics received from the 10 area high schools.

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