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PREP BASEBALL: Alcovy coach Jimmy Hughes beginning to see culture take shape
Hunter Owensby Jr.jpg
Junior pitcher Hunter Owensby was one of several Alcovy players whom coach Jimmy Hughes singled out for having a solid performance in the Tigers' final intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason. -photo by Anthony Banks

COVINGTON, Ga. — Don’t look at the scoreboard of Saturday’s intrasquad, Black vs. Gold scrimmage game if you want to find Alcovy baseball coach Jimmy Hughes thermometer of first season progress. 

The varsity’s Black team defeated the Gold squad 2-0 in a game where pitching and defense seemed to rule the day. Chris Burney picked up the win on the mound while Ryan Spikes recorded the loss and Mahlon Phelps recorded the save. 

Hughes singled out junior hurler, Hunter Owensby as one who “had a solid performance out of the bullpen,” along with Elisha Graves who helped get his team out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning. 

But again, though signs of progress, these aren’t the things Hughes is necessarily pointing to evaluate how far Alcovy baseball has come as it approaches a new season with a new coach. 

Look, instead, to the group of Alcovy baseball alums who returned to watch and root for the developing 2019 team. Or listen to how most of the varsity players showed up early before their game to watch, and cheer for, the JV, freshman and eighth grade players who had their scrimmage first. 

Those are the things that gets Hughes’ adrenaline flowing. 

“My favorite part of the day was the continuous building of the culture,” Hughes said. “Anywhere between eight to 10 of our varsity guys were at the field when our younger guys started at 11. They were cheering them on and encouraging each teammate.” 

Same went for the younger players. After the Black squad defeated the Gold team 6-5, the program’s youth stuck around to root on — and perhaps learn from — the varsity players. 

“The alumni also had fun with their softball game,” Hughes said. “It seems like the kids are buying in each day. It’s a good feeling to have as a coach.” 

In addition to the good feelings, Hughes did see some meaningful moments in the actual baseball action on the field, as well as some things to work on before Thursday’s scrimmage at Shiloh and the following Tuesday’s season opener at Monroe Area. 

Andrew Mills
Junior pitcher Andrew Mills gave a strong showing for the Gold team Saturday in Alcovy's intrasquad scrimmage. -photo by Anthony Banks

“I felt like we had a decent day,” Hughes said. “Though this is the fourth time we’ve gone live, this was the first time we’ve played a game with umpires. Our pitching and defense are light years ahead of the offense, which isn’t the end of the world, as far as I’m concerned. And Burney, Owensby, Andrew Mills and Caleb Griffeth each proved they can join Spikes in the rotation.”

Hughes called his players’ base running, “okay,” adding, “we have to improve offensively. Our approaches weren’t very good. Part of that is familiarity.”

Burney’s bat sort of paced the offense with a double off the wall in the first, and Hughes said Lamar Williams and Jayden Bishop each showed positive signs offensively as they try to push their way onto the varsity squad.

Beyond that, Hughes said he’s satisfied with the effort and vibe his team is producing — just in time for the first real action of the season. 

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“We get to play someone other than ourselves Thursday, and our kids are beyond ready and motivated,” Hughes said. “I couldn’t be happier with their energy.”