Etowah trio signs JUCO scholarships

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By Chris McCarthy/ Publisher/Editor

Good things came in threes on May 14 in Attalla, as a trio of Etowah High seniors agreed to play baseball at the next level.

Chris Steele (Wallace State-Hanceville), Tanner Putnam (Southern Union) and Caleb Ledbetter (Lawson State) signed junior college scholarships on May 14.

The above players helped the Blue Devils to a 22-14 record and berth in the Class 5A state playoffs for the second year in a row. 

At shortstop this season, Steele finished with a .327 batting average, 34 RBI, 28 steals and a team-high .996 fielding percentage.

“I hit a lot better this year, and that’s what got Wallace over here to watch me play,” said Steele. “I went to tryout about two weeks ago, and Coach Putnam called last week and told me I got the scholarship. It was a great feeling and it’s a great opportunity for me.”

This past season the Lions went 20-34 overall and 12-16 in the Alabama Community College Conference North Division.

“A far as catching and throwing the ball, Chris is the best infielder we’ve had here,” said EHS head baseball coach Larry Foster. “[Wallace State] Coach [Randy] Putnam saw some good things with Chris defensively, and he’ll get an opportunity to play.”

As an outfielder this year, Putnam batted .333 with 28 RBI, 20 steals and a .995 fielding percentage.

“We sat down and talked with my parents before my sophomore season, and we decided that if I’m going to do this (received a baseball scholarship], the work had to start at that point,” said Putnam, who plans on majoring in accounting. “Coach Foster’s big on hitting, so I learned all the correct fundamentals. But defense comes first with Coach, so I had to work on that, too.  I really liked the [Southern Union] campus, and the baseball facilities are awesome.” 

The Bison went 33-23 overall and 18-9 in the Alabama Community College Conference standings. Southern Union finished second in the Central Division behind eventual ACCC state champion Chattahoochee Valley.

“[Southern Union baseball] Coach [Joe] Jordan really likes Tanner’s speed,” said Foster. “He’s the type of kid who’ll need a tear of growth to get bigger and stronger, but when he does that, he’ll be a good player for them for a couple of years.” 

As the team’s second baseman, Ledbetter posted a .425 batting average with 30 RBI, 23 steals and a .993 fielding percentage.

“This takes a lot of pressure off me know that I’ve signed,” he said. “Lawson a good program, and I like the coach and I like the players and I like the field. One of the best things I like about Coach Foster is that if you tell him that you want to play college ball, he’ll sit you down and tell you straight up if you’re good enough.”

“As a lefthanded hitter, Caleb will be a player for [Lawson State] next season,” said Foster. “He’s going to be a good hitter, no matter where he goes. Any time you get three kids to sign, coaches will talk and that eventually create opportunities for our younger kids coming up.”

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