Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Lawrence County High junior Wes Holley is the team’s top pitcher and he’s swinging his stick at a .383 batting average.
By arm and by bat
Junior Wes Holley leads Red Devils at the plate, on the mound
By Brooke Milam
MOULTON — Lawrence County High junior Wes Holley’s teammates teased him at practice this week as he watched the first couple of pitches pass him by in an intrasquad contest.
Then Holley gave them what they were waiting for, blasting a home run over the left center-field fence, marked at 354 feet.
The ball cleared the fence and traveled another 50 feet before bouncing onto the tennis courts at H.C. Alexander Park.
Holley’s harassers then became his cheering section, as he rounded the bases receiving high fives from his teammates in the field that were his opponents at the moment.
“Close to a 400-foot shot,” Lawrence County coach Anthony Inman said.
“He can hit the ball a country mile. He’s a threat to hit a home run every time he gets up to bat. He’s got that much power.”
But there are also cons to Holley’s skills.
When practice broke, he had to jog the distance to retrieve the ball.
“We’ve got to get these balls back,” Inman said, laughing.
“We don’t get them all, but we need those.”
Holley is hitting .383 with a slugging percentage of .787, including five home runs and four doubles, batting in the three-hole for Lawrence County.
But he’s not just a big bat.
Holley, who leads the team in total bases and runs scored, and is second in RBIs and hits, is also the Red Devils’ No. 1 pitcher.
And Inman said as impressive as Holley is at the plate, his future is in pitching. He’s 4-0 on the mound for Lawrence County this season, striking out 58 batters in 32 innings pitched, while allowing six hits.
“I think he’s one of the best pitchers in the state,” Inman said.
“He’ll throw in the high 80’s to 90. Not only pitching — but he’s one of the best all-around players in the state.”
While many top pitchers at the Class 4A level and above aren’t called upon to contribute at the plate, Holley said his focus is on both.
So, which is more important: Hitting home runs or not allowing them?
“Probably trying to keep other teams from hitting them, I guess,” Holley said.
And he’s done well in that category. No one has hit a home run off Holley so far this season.
“He’s really matured a lot since last year and he’s pretty much the leader of our team right now,” Inman said.
“We’ve got a lot of really good players. He’s certainly not the only one. But he’s done a really good job in the leadership role when he takes the mound.”
When he’s not on the mound, Holley plays third base.
“He’s such a great athlete, you can’t afford to not have him in the lineup,” Inman said.
But Holley said he’s not the only one stepping up.
“Everybody does their job when they need to,” Holley said.
Holley sets the pace for a potent Lawrence County batting order, featuring six of nine starters hitting .373 or above.
“It kind of gives you that self-confidence,” said Josh Gaines, a junior first baseman.
“You know it’s like, if he can do it we can all do it.”
Senior catcher Thomas Glenn is hitting .421 in 19 at-bats. Gaines is batting .392 in 33 trips to the plate, followed by junior second baseman Britt White’s .393 in 28 at-bats. Junior shortstop Matthew Pugh is hitting .378, while Coty Way is at .373.
Lawrence County is 12-4 and will face county rival East Lawrence on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Lawrence County tournament at Speake.
“I really do feel like with Wes on the mound and us hitting the ball, we’ve got an opportunity to beat just about anybody we play,” Inman said.
“We’re a hitting team. We’re going to hit the ball pretty well no matter who we play.”
Lawrence County starts seven juniors and two seniors. But the junior-heavy lineup is an experienced one. Most of the junior group started last season as sophomores, when Lawrence County had only two seniors. The Red Devils have only two seniors again this year — Glenn and right fielder Will Inman.
Coach Inman said his team is one to watch, not just next year when his roster will finally be a largely senior squad, but also this season.
“I attribute a lot of our early success to that sophomore group from last year that has moved up to juniors now. We’ve really gotten things going with them right now, and it’s only going to get better in the future,” Inman said.
“This is going to be kind of the defining year.”
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