Stars of spring
Top players don’t simply possess great athletic ability, but a mental maturity that gives them the ability to lead their team to greatness. That’s no different for this year’s Shelby County Reporter Player of the Year for baseball, softball, boys’ soccer and girls’ soccer.
This year’s top players all led their teams to the state playoffs with one winning it all for the second-straight year, two others falling just short in the semifinals and the fourth pushing his team through to the second round – deeper than anyone thought his team would go.
BRACING FOR THE FUTURE
Briarwood Christian pitcher/shortstop Ben Bracewell showed in the final two weeks of the season why head coach Lee Hall says he is the best athlete he’s ever coached.
Bracewell, this year’s baseball Player of the Year, pitched back-to-back one-hitters in the Class 5A playoffs and is 3-0 in two years in the postseason.
“The bigger the game, the better he is,” Hall said. “He’s that guy that our whole team depended on every time he came to the plate or every time he went to the mound.”
Bracewell’s 0.86 ERA for his junior season is the second-lowest in school history and the best since Briarwood moved to Class 5A in 2001. His 96 strikeouts is also the second most in a season by a Briarwood pitcher. He also helped power the offense in the top of the order with a .421 batting average, five home runs and 30 RBIs.
STAR IN THE CORNER
Pelham third baseman Christin Crocker solidified her spot as softball Player of the Year after going 7-for-11 in the AHSAA Class 6A state softball tournament two weeks ago. Crocker, who had 13 home runs for the season, began crushing the ball in the final four weeks to take Pelham to a fourth-place finish in the state.
“I just didn’t want my last game to be in area or sub-state,” said Crocker, who will play at the University of South Alabama next spring.
She took head coach Amy Sullivan’s challenge to heart this year to be the best player when she steps on the field and when she steps off, something Sullivan hates to see leave PHS.
“I’ve never had to replace a player like her, and I’m not sure if we ever can,” Sullivan said. “She’ll do every extra effort except clean the toilets.”
But Crocker didn’t stop with diving catches, grand slams or stolen bases. Her main focus was to get her teammates going.
“I’m always smiling and laughing when I play, because if you’re not having fun, then there’s no point in playing,” Crocker said. “If you get all mad, then your confidence level goes down.”
CONTROLLING THE FIELD
This year’s boys’ and girls’ soccer Players of the Year, Oak Mountain’s Chandler Hoffman and Spain Park’s Kim Pettit, are both on track for a successful future in Division I soccer.
Pettit, a future Mississippi State University Bulldog, moved to Hoover in the offseason from Jackson, Miss. She didn’t let an offseason knee injury stop her, as she came in immediately and made an impact for Spain Park, taking the young team to the state semifinals after scoring
a penalty kick with 16 seconds remaining in the second round to upset Grissom.
Hoffman, who still has a year to play, expects to continue living out his dream by committing to UCLA within the week. He scored 34 goals and added 11 assists to lead Oak Mountain to its second-straight Class 6A state title.
“It feels like everything that I’ve been working for is paying off,” said Hoffman, who was named the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year on May 12 and is receiving attention from U.S. National Team coaches.
C – Blaine Rosenberg, Oak Mountain
IF – Adam Russell, Briarwood
IF – Trent Franklin, Thompson
IF – Charlie Esskuchen, Spain Park
IF – Michael Bishop, Pelham
OF – Blake Woo, Chelsea
OF – Jordan Chism, Thompson
OF – Corey Kimbrell, Thompson
P – Ben Bracewell, Briarwood
P – Wes Rich, Pelham
P – Byron Kelley, Oak Mountain
P – Trae Santos, Pelham
P – Blake Yance, Chelsea
Coach of the Year: Shane Beasley, Shelby County
BRIARWOOD: Evan Simmons. CALERA: Chris Anderson, Danny Barefield, Trent Posey, Matt Tracy, Paul Winterbottom. CHELSEA: Zac Hilliard, Stephen Icolano. COOSA VALLEY: Gage Holmes, Whit Lovelady. CORNERSTONE: Lance Benton, Josh Dunnaway. INDIAN SPRINGS: Philip Ward. KINGWOOD: Nathan Allen, Caleb Pickett, Andrew Steele. MONTEVALLO: Dallas Lucas, Jeff Roper. OAK MOUNTAIN: Michael Connell, Chase Traffica. PELHAM: Anrew Bishop, Michael Bishop, Trevor Fitts, Ryan Roberts. SHELBY ACADEMY: Jake Fulgham, Chad King, Cody Jones, Jeremy Ogles, JoJo Tidmore. SHELBY COUNTY: Justin Blankenship, Graham Davis, Braten Dill, Brennen Smith. SPAIN PARK: Josh Magette, Arthur Strauss, Drew Watson. THOMPSON: Alan Reeves, Ryan Terrell, Steven Ward. VINCENT: Corey Deloach, Colin Spradley.
C – Meredith Sellers, Shelby County
IF – Heather McGuirk, Pelham
IF – Brooklyn Phillips, Shelby County
IF – Julie Moss, Oak Mountain
IF – Christin Crocker, Pelham
OF – Whitney Farrington,
OF – Stephanie Hollis, Chelsea
OF – Jessica Cooley, Oak Mountain
P – Trish Zettler, Pelham
P – Kelsey Dennis, Pelham
P – Laci Hochstrasser, Montevallo
P – Louise Gibson, Oak Mountain
P – Chelsey Dunnaway, Cornerstone
Coach of the Year: Russell McCartey, Chelsea
BRIARWOOD: Amy Hale, Madeline Lamon, Lauren Parks. CALERA: Katelyn Dean. CHELSEA: Anna Cox, Tori Hollis, Jennifer Thurman. COOSA VALLEY: Emma Bliss, Tyger Paris. CORNERSTONE: Brittney Calma, Nichole Davis, Brittany Duke, Kailey Goodwin. INDIAN SPRINGS: Jillian Theibert. KINGWOOD: Kaylyn Ingram, Madeline Lee, Lauren Rozof. MONTEVALLO: Shanise Hudson, Cloe Jones, Kylie Stansell. OAK MOUNTAIN: Ashley Bice PELHAM: Hailey Glynn, Lindsey Price. SHELBY ACADEMY: Kimbrell Lee. SHELBY COUNTY: Meghan Billingsley, Cycola Buie, Jessica Pennington. SPAIN PARK: Melissa Wilson THOMPSON: Ashley Savage, Katlin White. VINCENT: Taylor Wilson.
GK – Freddie Delchamps, Indian Springs
GK – Alex Levinson, Chelsea
D – Carey Davis, Spain Park
D – Chip Elmer, Briarwood
D – Vance Curro, Spain Park
M – Stefan Vaziri, Oak Mountain
M – Christian Avalos, Pelham
M – Andrew Whitaker, Briarwood
M – Ben Guion, Indian Springs
F – Chandler Hoffman, Oak Mountain
F – Juan Mena, Pelham
F – Sean Tilford, Briarwood
Coach of the Year: Rik Tozzi, Indian Springs
BRIARWOOD: Jeremy Box, Alexander Faulk, Daniel Wallace. CALERA: Nathan Langner, Christian Schaffer.
CHELSEA: Jonathan Antonetti, Justin Thomas, Zac Yow. INDIAN SPRINGS: Thomas Fox, Alex Jamroz, Adam Trodd. OAK MOUNTAIN: Tommy DePriest, Miah Jones, Mason Lavallet. PELHAM: Austin Pierce, Kevin Rose, Adam Saulers. THOMPSON: Rusty Cowley. SPAIN PARK: Nathan Hains, Hudson Jetton.
GK – Lauren Arnold, Spain Park
GK – Shanna Brooks, Oak Mountain
D – Caroline Dorris, Briarwood
D – Audra Brawley, Briarwood
D – Kayla Klumpp, Spain Park
M – Lindsey Sillers, Briarwood
M – Devon Weldon, Indian Springs
M – Shannon Lathrop, Oak Mountain
M – Kim Pettit, Spain Park
F – Brittany Vanderburg, Spain Park
F – Mary Morris, Thompson
F – Betsy Stewart, Indian Springs
Coach of the Year: Robert Starr, Spain Park
BRIARWOOD: Missy Shaw, Lauren Silvio, Deborah Ross. CALERA: Jessica Ford.
CHELSEA: Iyani Hughes, Kayla Ogletree, Lauren Swee. INDIAN SPRINGS: Sarah Clark, Tullia Rushton, Jillian Theibert. OAK MOUNTAIN: Kathryn Allison. PELHAM:
Nora Alcaino. THOMPSON: Molly Cline, Danielle Morris, Emilie Morrow. SPAIN PARK: Abby Carr, Brittany Morgan
The original version of this story left off the names of Chris Anderson and Paul Winterbottom of Calera from the Baseball All-County Honorable Mention list.