COVINGTON - The Alcovy baseball team had a great season under first-year head coach Casey Bates.
Not only did it finish with a 22-10 record and make to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs, it also had nine players named to the 4-AAAA All-Region Baseball Team.
"Our goal was to make the playoffs and see what happened from there," Bates said. "I don't think we actually thought about hosting the first round. But once they realized that we were playing really good early, their goals got bigger. Hosting was great for the kids, school and program in general."
Four Alcovy players were named to the first team with two on the second team and five as honorable mention.
Making the first team were pitcher Beau Thomas, outfielders Michael Aventurato and Ross Roberts and catcher Bryan Daniel.
On the second team were pitcher Taylor Jackson and infielder Bowen Braswell with honorable mention going to Shaun Carter, John Pollard and Alex Cooper.
Of the nine players on the all-region team, Alcovy is only losing Roberts.
"That's a big testament for the kids. A couple of them made it as position players that could've made it as pitchers and a couple made it as pitchers that could've made it as position players," Bates said. "Eight of those, we'll have back next year. Having four named to the first team is a big plus for us for next year."
Thomas not only led the Alcovy defense on the mound with a record of 7-2, he also had a batting average of .521, followed by Roberts at .413.
Carter also had impressive numbers considering that he did not join the varsity until the second half of the season. He had a .442 batting average.
Daniel, a catcher, was the heart of the team defensively. He also kept the offense ticking along with a team-leading eight homers while hitting .392 and tied with Roberts for the most doubles with nine.
Braswell (.359), a freshman, had eight doubles and six home runs for the season.
While a lot of players contributed to the success of the team, no player stood out more than Daniel.
"Bryan Daniel led the way with his hard nosed mentality. He played with 100 percent effort no matter what he was doing in the game. He played as if it was his last game of the year each and every game," Bates said. "Other leaders, such as Ross Roberts, Beau Thomas, Taylor Jackson and Michael Aventurato, helped lead by doing their jobs and keeping the team up the entire season."
The Tigers had two five-game winning streaks as well as two four-game winning streaks in region play.
But the game that made Bates realize that his team had not only the talent but the determination to make it to the playoffs was its 6-5 come-from-behind region win over Jonesboro.
Alcovy trailed 5-0 early in the contest before staging its comeback.
"Ross Roberts dove for a ball in the outfield that would have been a triple and scored two runs, but he caught it and saved the game," Bates said.
The other game was its 9-8 win over Salem in which Alcovy scored all of its runs in the top of the seventh inning.
As a team, the Tigers crossed the plate 243 times while allowing 183 runs - a vast improvement to last year when they were outscored almost 2-to-1.
Of the Tigers' wins and losses, seven were decided by one run, winning five of them. They had four two-run wins and five run-rule wins while losing three by 10-plus runs.
"We had our ups and downs, but the main point of coaching all year was to keep a level head. When things were going great, keep a level head and when things were going bad to also keep a level head," Bates said. "They played just as hard in the last inning as they did in the first. They had fun this year cutting up with each other, with the coaches, with the fans, but at the same time had fun being pushed to the limit by each other, the coaches, the fans and by other teams. We won seven games this year where we had to come back to win late. That showed character and heart by each and every kid."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.