Baseball, softball look to build on youth

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Softball and baseball were the highlight of the spring sports at last month’s all-sports banquet at Franklin County High School.

The baseball program, under the direction of Kevin Cox, advanced to the regional playoffs for the first time in the school’s history, a journey that included defeating Port St. Joe in the regular season, and again at the districts.

With no seniors on the team, Cox and assistant Gene McLeod are looking forward to even great success next year as the young crop of players further mature into seasoned players,

Cited for their contributions this past season were freshmen Reece Juno, Chase Millender, Will Luberto, Cody Abercrombie, Alex Sterling, Brayden McCall and Logan Bentley; sophomore Chase Crum, Jordan Olson, Evan Stanley, Mason Moses, and Wyatt Abercrombie; and juniors Wil Varnes, Blakely Curry, Larry Winchester and Garrison Cook.

This year’s middle school baseball team also holds promise for the future. They include Sadiq Jones, Preston Butler, Jeremiah Allen, Jordan Shiver, Nolan Alford, Rylan Wood, Brennan Cook, Prince Williams, Chason Martina, Ashton Gilbert, Kyle Gilbert and Colby Blackburn.

Stressing that baseball was a team sport, Cox did not present individual honors.

The softball team, under the direction of Scott Collins, also is a young squad, with eight middle school players and four from the high school. Abby Johnson is the only graduating senior from the 2021 squad.

Collins, flanked by assistants Brock Johnson and Mike Todd, with whom he has worked for the past eight seasons, said the coaching crew has been a part of a program that has won more than 200 games, and been a part of five playoffs, with three district titles and a Class 1A Final Four appearance.

Collins said newcomer Allen Ham worked with the outfield, teaching them how to crow hop. “By the end, these girls were really good,” Collins said.

The middle school squad performed well, although two sixth graders, Jaclyn and Lailah Millender, and seventh grader Lexi Webb, were moved up into the varsity ranks.  

The middle school team consisted of sixth graders Ansley Chipman, Valerie Shattuck, Wendi Bernabe, Addyson Paul, Jayla Creamer. Sa’Rigia McNair, Sierra Kelly, Brooklyn Klink and Princess Turrell; seventh grader Mia Thomas; and eighth graders Charity Larkin, Malea Bell, Madison Millender, Jazmyn Pavon, Gracyn Paul, Shianne Shaw.

On the varsity squad, Collins praised the play of three ABC School eighth graders Micahlyn O’Neal, Breahna Fleming and Kaylyn McNair;  junior Ariel Andrews; and junior Sage Brannan, a first baseman who finished with just one error in 240 chances, and smacked her first high school home run.

Winning the Coaches Award, for leadership, dedication and academic achievement, was freshman Taylor Mallon.

The Offensive Player of the Year honors went to eighth grader Ryan Brown, a newcomer to the game, who went on a tear last year, batting .500, with demonstrations of strong athleticism.

The Defensive Player of the Year honors went to eighth grader Sarah Ham, a multi-faceted player who has already shown herself to be among the region’s finest pitchers.

Most Valuable Player honors went to Johnson, who batted .410, led the team in home runs and slugging percentage and showed herself adept at playing a variety of positions. She’s headed to Gulf Coast State College on a softball scholarship.

Boys soccer coach Mike Murphy was absent, so those duties fell to boys assistant Isaac Diaz and girls coach Victoria Dively.

Boys who played this year included the team’s MVP Gideon Dively, Esteban Bernabe, Cooper Bowden, Will Chipman, Devin Daniels, Alexander Dominguez-Gomez, Enrique Gomez, Hunter Duval, Timothy Gregory, Reece Juno, Garyson Millender, Parker Mock, Luis Ramirez, Eugenio Sebastian, Ethan Shirley and Austin Staats.

Girls who played this past winter included the Most Valuable Player Rana West, Captain Sage Brannan, Emily Patterson, Harmony Malone, Caitlin Kuhner, Annalee Boudreau, Alexa Pavon, Jazmyn Pavon, Miranda Diaz, Emily Smith, Calea Dively, Mia Thomas, Lailah Carranza and Andrea Cruz.

The boys weightlifting team, coached by Dirk Strunk, included Cody Abercrombie, Wyatt Abercrombie, Logan Bentley, Esteban Bernabe, Cooper Bowden, Hunter Duval, Brayden McCall, Luis Ramirez and two lifters who qualified to advance in the post-season, Bentley Braswell and Gideon Dively,

The track team, coached by Kelsey Jones, included Autumn Loesch, Genesis Jones, Calea Dively, Micahlyn O’Neal, Mya Brown, Luis Ramirez, Hunter Duval, who received the Hustle Award, and Josiah Friddle, who won the Achievement award for advancing to regionals,

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