By Chris McCarthy/Editor
An Eagle and a Conqueror took the top honors in the 2016 All-Messenger high school baseball team.
Chase Beggs played a big hand in the Eagles finishing the regular season as the eighth-ranked team in Class 4A and qualifying for a state playoff berth. In 58 innings on the mound, the senior allowed only 29 hits on the way to an earned run average of 2.02 while striking out 105 and finishing with a record of 7-2. At the plate, he batted .512 with 43 hits, 42 RBI and eight home runs. Beggs’ outstanding production resulted in a baseball scholarship to Southern Union Community College.
Jackson Justus was just as important to the success of the Conquerors, who improved from a 5-12 record in 2015 to 23-4. As a pitcher, the sophomore went 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA and two no-hitters. At the plate, he batted .346 with 21 RBI and nine doubles.
Joining the above two players on the first team pitching staff were Westbrook Christian junior Tyler Self, Gaston junior Alexander Allen and Southside sophomore Evan Edwards.
Self posted a stellar 11-1 record on the mound, finishing with 72 strikeouts and a 1.50 earned run average in 67 innings while helping the Warriors go 26-12, finish the regular season as the ninth-ranked team in the state and make it to the Class 2A state semifinals.
In 81 innings, Allen fanned 130 batters. He finished with a 12-5 record, including a 3-0 mark in the state playoffs. He helped the Bulldogs post a 17-11 record and make it to the Class 2A quarterfinals.
In 41.67 innings, the sidearm-throwing Edwards held opponents to a .133 batting average while producing a 1.50 ERA and 37 strikeouts. He helped the Panthers go 31-17, earn a final regular season state ranking of No. 5 and win three straight playoff series.
Filling out the first team were Gaston junior catcher Jesse Samples, Westbrook sophomore first baseman Troy Bearden, Southside junior second baseman Tanner Snow, Coosa Christian junior shortstop Caden Davidson, Hokes Bluff senior third baseman Austin Willbanks, Westbrook senior Kyle Edwards, Southside junior Baylon Fry and Coosa Christian junior Caleb Garrett in the outfield and Southside senior Grayson Daugherty and Westbrook sophomore Garret Kennedy at the utility position.
Samples had 24 runs scored, 17 RBI and 12 doubles to go along with a .348 batting average. Bearden batted .386 with 34 RBI, 44 hits, 20 runs and 16 doubles. Snow batted .295 with 43 hits, 31 RBI, 33 runs, 11 doubles and four triples. Davidson batted .406 while driving in 32 runs. In 25 games, Willbanks batted .488 with 40 hits and 32 RBI.
Fry produced a .310 batting average, 49 hits, 39 RBI, 34 runs and five home runs. Garrett finished with a .543 batting average, 31 runs scored and 15 doubles. Edwards hit .341 with 34 runs, 19 RBI and 18 steals.
Kennedy hit for a .404 batting average with 37 RBI, 20 runs, 42 hits, 10 doubles and 17 steals. In nine pitching starts, he went 7-1-1 in 40 innings with 37 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA. On the mound, Daugherty had a 1.90 earned run average while fanning 44 in 37.67 innings. At the plate, he batted .312 with 43 hits, 31 runs, 21 RBI and six doubles.
Coach of the Year honors went to Coosa Christian’s Joey Millican. After a five-win season in 2015, he guided the Conquerors to 23 victories, the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs. Coosa also finished the regular season as the third-ranked team in Class 1A.
Named to the second team were Southside junior pitcher Austin Winningham, Westbrook senior catcher Kyle Leonard, Gadsden City sophomore first baseman Ryan Sparks, Coosa Christian junior second baseman Alex Holman, West End senior shortstop Hunter Grant, Westbrook sophomore third baseman Cullen Stafford, Etowah senior Pail Ruiz, Westbrook senior Chandler Richards and West End junior Cory Willingham in the outfield and Etowah senior Devin Freeman at the utility position.