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
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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