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MONDAY, JULY 2, 2007
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Hartselle High’s J.C. Bates waits to tag out Wetumpka’s Brett Roney during Sunday action at the Underclassmen Showcase.
Photo by Dennis Victory
Hartselle High’s J.C. Bates waits to tag out Wetumpka’s Brett Roney during Sunday action at the Underclassmen Showcase.

Sandlin’s swing impresses at Underclassmen Showcase

By Dennis Victory
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TROY — When Austin High’s Russ Sandlin took the field for batting practice Friday at the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Underclassmen Showcase, the rising junior saw a gathering horde of professional scouts and college coaches, furiously scribbling away with ever-ready notebooks.

The left-hander felt some tension with all the attention, but that quickly passed when he belted a pitch over the right-field fence.

It was Sandlin’s only over-the-fence shot in fair territory for the weekend, but his two long foul blasts into the parking lot Saturday drew plenty of notice. He added a run-scoring single in Sunday’s North Team 6 comeback 4-3 win over North Team 5.

“This was one of the best experiences of my life,” Sandlin said. “I played with a bunch of good ball players and I played against a bunch of good ball players. And I got to talk to some (college) coaches.”

The 160 players were chosen from regional workout sites held around the state. At Troy, they ran a 60-yard dash, went through extended infield workouts and took part in a round of batting practice in addition to playing seven-inning games. About 50 scouts and college coaches watched the action as they evaluated talent for their programs.

In Sunday’s game, West Limestone’s Ryan Wheeler of Team 6 singled to start the final inning and scored along with Hazel Green’s Tucker Willard to provide the winning margin on a single by Russellville’s Jacob Daniel.

Decatur’s John Frost gave Team 6 its first run of the game with an RBI ground-out in the fourth inning to close the margin to 3-1. Sandlin’s fifth-inning RBI set the stage for the comeback win.

Lawrence County’s Ethan Wallen added a single in the game.

Austin’s Sandlin has been on the varsity roster since he was an eighth-grader and started as a freshman.

He’s excited about the future after first-year coach Jake Miles led Austin to a 20-22 record and a spot in the Class 6A state playoffs this season.

“He turned the program around,” Sandlin said. “He’s really doing a fantastic job.”

Joseph Baker of Athens Bible started on the mound for Team 5, pitching three scoreless innings. The rising senior left-hander struck out two and allowed two hits.

“My curve ball was working great today,” Baker said. “The competition here is so good. I loved this and learned a lot.”

Speake’s Zach Vick started the scoring with a run in the first inning for Team 5, which picked up two more runs in the third to go up 3-0 before Team 6 scored the final four runs for the victory.

Team 5 was coached by Calhoun’s Jim Morrill, who finished his second season after restarting the program two years ago.

Hartselle’s J.C. Bates pitched two scoreless innings as North Team 7 won 3-2 over South Team 1 in the first game of the day. Bates also played errorless at shortstop.

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