Baseball team opens season on Monday
By Michael Butler
The Tallassee Tigers baseball team is set for 2017 with a new classification and new area but a different opponent for their first game, Central of Clay County.
"I think it's 25 years straight we opened with Dadeville," THS head coach Adam Clayton said. "Coach Randy Nolen took the head job at Catholic. He was there for 30 years."
Former Dadeville player Kyle Caldwell has taken over his alma mater's baseball program. Dadeville and Tallassee are in the same area with Elmore County and Holtville this season.
"With four of last year's eight teams from the "Field of Dreams Tournament" being in the same area and Randy retiring, we figured it was time to move on," Clayton added. "Plus with new scheduling rules, tournaments count toward your 28 games."
New pitching rules are also taking effect in 2017. Clayton served on the committee that finalized the pitch count that the AHSAA is implementing.
"In the past it's been 14 innings per week for pitchers. It's going to a sliding scale."
That scale limits 11th and 12 graders to 120 pitches per day, 9th and 10th graders to 100 pitches per day and 7th and 8th graders to 85 per day. Rest periods vary based on the pitcher's grade. For instance, 11th and 12th graders are required three days rest if more than 76 pitches are thrown in one day.
"I think it's going to be a good thing," said Clayton. "The AHSAA has adopted it. The NFHS has adopted it. It's a nationwide thing. The AHSAA's medical board has been pushing for it for several years with the arm injuries. 80 to 85 percent of coaches are doing the right thing, but you've got coaches - a few - that are overextending those guys. It's going to make them comply and do what's best for the student-athlete."
Speaking of pitching, Tallassee has had its fair share of strong pitchers to come through the program. Minor league players Trey Cochran-Gill and Jed Carter have been working with the program during the off-season. Dylan Hathcock is now at Jacksonville State for his freshman season.
"Dylan's proabably going to be a mid-week starter," Clayton noted. "We've got Dee Williams and Will Peters as returning starters. Reid Whitaker may be on the mound a little this year. We've got Blake Dean back. Lincoln Oliver threw a little last year. You'll probably see a little more of him this year. Those are all seniors. Plus, we've got Casey Baynes and Jake Burton."
Clayton said of Tallassee's 19 players on the roster, 14 can pitch. "We've got four of five lefties."
"The biggest thing in hitting is getting the big hit in the big situation. That's been the focus. In the Charles Henderson series, we left 20-something runners on base. We were disappointed with our first-round playoff bump last year, but we had another strong year. This group of seniors has started since they were freshmen. They've won close to 100 games in their careers."
Clayton's team is pumped to get the season underway with the renovations at Southside Field.
"The facility is one of the best around in my opinion. We open up with a homestand the first four games. Reserved seats are open to the public. $50 will get you in for every game."
The junior varsity Tigers play in the opener on Monday at 4:30 p.m. with the varsity contest afterward. 1300 WTLS/106.5 FM will have the broadcast. Live video will be on Tallassee Times TV. Audio is simulcast on Spectrum Cable Channel 97 and the TuneIn Radio App.