Austin backer John Shealy to toss 1st pitch
John Shealy, a beloved fan and loyal supporter of Austin High athletics for the past 26 years, will throw out the first pitch of Austin's baseball home opener against Hazel Green on Friday at 4 p.m. as the Black Bears honor one of their dearest friends.
Shealy and his wife Lynn, a Decatur native, are moving to Woodstock, Ga., to be near family. Before they leave, Austin is taking the opportunity to thank Shealy for his longtime support of Black Bears athletics.
Since moving to Decatur, Shealy has lived on Britwood Drive, a half a block from the Austin baseball field.
He became a regular at Austin practices and games. Shealy endeared himself to the team and treated fans to "Shealy burgers" when he took up a position behind the grill at the concession stand.
He is also well-known for his support of the Austin softball, soccer, basketball and football teams.
In addition, he is a veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne during WWII and later in the Corps of Engineers during the Korean War. He has been an active member in the American Legion Post 15.
City soccer moves up: The city is making its presence known in the state high school soccer coaches' polls this season.
Both Decatur High and Austin girls and boys teams are turning heads throughout the state with Austin's boys moving up to second in the Class 6A state this week and Austin's girls at No. 13, while Decatur's boys are seventh in 5A and Decatur girls are third.
"Soccer is getting really big in the city, especially with the (Jack Allen Southwest Recreation Soccer Complex) and all the club teams growing," third-year Decatur soccer coach John Hand said.
Hand said that since Decatur and Austin are no longer in the same classification, it's easier for the teams to share in each other's success. He added that having both teams ranked has brought pride to the River City.
"It has made the city look better," Hand said.
The season's first Decatur-Austin boys soccer showdown was rained out March 1. Hand said Decatur and Austin boys teams likely won't meet until the Bob Jones tournament after spring break.
Hand said he expects it to be hotly contested, and though he is uncertain on how the tournament draw was chosen, he is glad his team will have a chance to face another ranked team that's also a city rival.
"I'm glad we're playing them," Hand said.
Pickett chosen for Roundball Classic: Decatur High senior Rico Pickett has been named to the 23-man roster for the 2007 Sonny Vaccaro's Roundball Classic scheduled for April 3 at 7 p.m. at Chicago's United Center.
Pickett joins some of the nation's top talent from 13 states in the 43rd annual high school all-star game.
Past players in the event now in the NBA include Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal, L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett, New Jersey Nets' Vince Carter and Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady.
Brooke Milam's prep performances of note
Among the many top individual high school spring sports performances recently, here are a few that caught the eye of Daily Sports Writer Brooke Milam:
William Sartain, Decatur, Jr.: Blasted a grand slam in the fourth inning of the Red Raiders' 18-2 win over Scottsboro on Friday. He finished the day 3-for-5 at the plate.
Colin McMurry, Athens, Jr.: Struck out 11 batters in six innings on the mound for Athens in a 3-1 victory over East Limestone on Friday.
Ryan Morring, Athens Bible, Jr.: Was strong for the Trojans on the mound and at the plate in a sweep of Huntsville-Catholic 16-0 and 11-1 on Saturday. He hit a two-run homer in the first game, followed by another home run in the second contest. He also teammed with Jordan Pugh to pitch a no-hitter.
Wes Holley, Lawrence County, Jr.: Threw a complete-game shutout as the Red Devils downed county rival East Lawrence 7-0 on Tuesday. He struck out 15 batters, while allowing two hits. He also blasted a two-run homer.
Mollie Russell, Decatur, So.: Tossed a complete-game shutout as the Lady Red Raiders beat Tuscaloosa County 1-0 on Saturday. She also struck out 18 batters in 12 innings of work in Decatur's 2-0 win over Brookwood, helping Decatur reach the finals of the Tuscaloosa Tournament.
Jake Mendenhall, Austin, Jr.: Had both the game-tying and game-winning scores for Austin in a 3-2 win over Bob Jones on Feb. 27. Both were on penalty kicks for the Black Bears, ranked second in the state coaches' poll in Class 6A.
Zack Woodruff, Hartselle, So.: Scored the game's only goals in Hartselle's 2-0 win over Gulf Shores on Friday, as the Tigers advanced in the Island Cup soccer tournament in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, featuring 30 teams from across the country.
Note: Coaches can nominate prep performances of the week by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.