COVINGTON, Ga. — In the spring of 2022, Alcovy Tigers baseball took a huge step forward as a program — they qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Alcovy was under the direction of Jimmy Hughes at the time but, between seasons, Kareem Hayes was promoted to the helm.
Hayes, who served as an assistant for one year for Hughes, wants to see the Tigers not just qualify for the playoffs in 2023, but also advance.
“We’re using [last year’s playoff berth] as fuel,” Hayes said. “It was a different experience for those guys, and that atmosphere was definitely different. But those guys now see what playoff baseball is like. We’re incorporating our practices and workouts like playoff baseball so they can get the understanding of what it’s like to play at that level.”
One of the reasons why Hayes believes Alcovy can do that is the amount of young talent returning from last year’s squad.
Players like Reece Payne, Connor Merrit, CJ Salmon and Hunter Parker were among the many names highlighted by Hayes as leaders for this year’s team. Then, there are the newcomers such as Chris Guillory and Dylan Lester who have already caught the attention of their new head coach.
Chris Salmon, Stephon Fryer and Henry Clay are assistant coaches for the Tigers, and they’re starting to see the potential in this year’s squad as well.
Something that Hayes has noticed, though, that makes this group special is the camaraderie it has developed in offseason workouts.
“They’re building a family and a brotherhood among themselves,” Hayes said. “They pick up each other when they’re down, and that’s what we’re trying to build.”
Alcovy’s season commences on Feb. 13 when the Tigers take on Apalachee on the road followed by a home matchup with Apalachee on Feb. 15.
Three days later, the Tigers will host the Newton Cup Diamond Day with Newton and Eastside baseball.
Lastly, on March 13, Mundy’s Mill comes in to kickoff Alcovy’s Region 3-AAAAAAA slate of games.
Hayes is eager to see how his team competes against tough competition up and down the Tigers’ schedule.
“Everybody we have on our schedule is very competitive,” Hayes said. “They’re all great teams, especially in our region. All of the teams are coached by great men. And we plan to use the non-region schedule just to see where we’re at. When it comes time for region, we’ll be ready.”