COVINGTON - The Piedmont Academy baseball team had a great run this spring in Class AA of the Georgia Independent School Association, winning its region and making it to the state semifinals.
A big part of the team's 22-5 season was the Covington trio of Josh Stevenson, Kale Blackshear and Andy Hall.
"They're just great kids with great personalities. All three of them are starters, they're leaders," Piedmont Academy coach Danny Camp said. "They were called upon last year late in the playoffs to step in because we had some injuries and they had to fill in. From there, they just worked, worked, worked and stepped right in this year and had big years for us."
Of Piedmont's five losses, two came against GISA Class AA state champion Trinity Christian School in the semifinals, one to Tattnall Square Academy - which won Class AAA state championship - and one to Stratford Academy, which made it to the Class AAA semis.
The Cougars beat Trinity in the first game of the best-of-three series when Stevenson was on the mound. However, Trinity was able to come back and defeat Piedmont Academy twice to advance.
Stevenson led the Cougars on the mound with a 10-1 record and a 1.50 ERA. In 70 innings of work, the junior had 67 strikeouts with just 17 walks.
"He just came out of nowhere," Camp said." He received our most improved award. He had a good year last year, but he just continued to work hard and grew. He continued to work hard in the weight room and just really came along. He was our ace, threw all of our big ballgames."
While Stevenson was impressive from the mound, he also did his part at the plate.
To go with a batting average of .484, he finished the season with 46 hits - including 11 doubles and seven home runs - and 41 RBIs. Five of his homers came in the postseason.
Besides being named as most improved and most valuable player of the team, Stevenson was also named to the All-Middle Georgia first team by The Macon Telegraph and the 1-AA all-region and Class AA all-state teams.
Hall, who played mostly in the semifinal games, had an impressive showing, scoring 10 runs while hitting two doubles and a triple and driving in seven runs. He was also walked 11 times.
"He had a tremendous year for us. He got the coaches award this year," Camp said. "To show you what he's made of, he broke his leg in football this year and was able to come back from that and had an amazing year for us."
Blackshear, like Stevenson, was an all-around athlete, playing two positions as an outfielder and pitcher.
"Kale is also our starting center fielder. He also pitched for us, going 3-3 on the mound," Camp said. "He threw a couple of games against those bigger schools. He did a great job. We just didn't score that many runs,."
Blackshear pitched 32 innings and had an 1.97 ERA.
At the plate, Blackshear had a .303 average with 27 hits, including six doubles, two triples and one homer. He also had 10 RBIs and stole 16 bases.
"He's one of those guys that you put in the No. 2 (batting) spot just because he brings so many aspects to the game. He's going to spread the ball all over the field," Camp said. "He can just lay the bunt down anytime because he can run it out. He can fly."
While all three are good players, they all add something different to the team, which made the Cougars more successful.
"Andy is your quiet guy. He just goes about his business. Josh in the in-between, and Kale is more like the guy that will step up," Camp said. "He's vocal and will keep people pumped up. He won't let folks get down. He'll be the first one there to pick people up, like, 'It's all right, we'll get them next time.'"
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.