COVINGTON, Ga. — For a freshman, Ryan Spikes had the highlight reel depth of an accomplished varsity upperclassmen.
For instance, there was the Stockbridge game where Spikes got on the mound and helped his Tigers complete a dramatic come-from-behind 13-4 victory after being down 4-0. Spikes says it was the first time he really got major play on the mound.
“I came in the game after our first pitcher gave up a few runs, and in my head I was thinking I’m going to shut these guys down and get our team back in the game,” he said. “I threw a few strikes. Got three outs, went back in the dugout and said ‘I can actually do this.’”
But that wasn’t the Alcovy rising sophomore’s biggest ‘I can do this moment.’ That came at the plate against state playoff contender Grovetown.
“It was the first home run I hit,” Spikes said. “They had junior pitching and I remember thinking because he’s a junior and I’m a freshman that his pitching would be pretty advanced.”
And perhaps it was, as Spikes recalls getting down in the count early before smacking that confidence boosting shot over his home field fence.
“It was an 0-2 pitch,” he said. “He threw it off speed. My eyes got big as I saw it come across, and I knew this was my pitch. I shortened my swing and just followed through and it was gone.”
Alcovy would go on to win the game 4-2 against a Grovetown squad that made an Elite Eight run in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. It was only one of five wins for the Tigers, but the kind of game that flashed both Spikes’ and Alcovy’s potential.
“That was the game when I felt I could really play on this level,” Spikes said. “In middle school, I played travel ball and it’s different. Coming into high school, at first was overwhelming with the older guys that were more physically advanced than I am. But as the season went on things kind of clicked, and I adapted to it.”
Spikes adapted to the tune of a .324 batting average with seven doubles, a triple and 16 RBI in addition to that Grovetown smash. He also recorded three of Alcovy’s five wins on the mound while tossing 45 strikeouts in 32 innings of work.
And people are noticing his talent.
“I’ve been hearing from colleges already,” he said. “I’ve been getting letters and emails. Not a whole ton, but there’s been some recognition.”
Spikes may be young, but as the 2018 All-Covington News Freshman of the Year, he’s already begun the work of plotting out his future course.
“My goal is to go pro right out of high school,” he said. “I’d like to be an early round (Major League Baseball) pick. But if that doesn’t work out, I’d definitely like to have that college experience of playing baseball.”
Before any of that materializes, Spikes will be trying to play his way onto the USA national team. He’ll juggle travel ball time with Team Halo and summer workouts with Alcovy as he awaits the second stage of Team USA tryouts in Cary, North Carolina during the last week of July.
“If I keep doing good, I’ll get to go to Panama with the national team,” he said. “That means a lot. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to represent your country and go to another country to play baseball against some of the best players in the world.”
Spikes also has aspirations to represent his high school program in the best way possible. He said he’s excited about what new coach Jimmy Hughes is bringing to the program, and he along with young talent like rising junior Chandler Hicks, believes the Tigers’ best days are ahead.
“Hopefully I can try to help turn this program around,” Spikes said. “Last season, I had a pretty good season, but we didn’t have a very good team, even though we showed some potential. “Hopefully we can have a .500 season or winning season next year and get to the playoffs. With coach Hughes brining excitement and the kind of discipline he requires, I think we can do that. We’ve got a young group now, but we’re good and I want to be a part of that.”