COVINGTON, Ga. — Don’t be quick to sleep on the Alcovy High School baseball team.
There’s a movement happening on the south side of Newton County, where the Tigers improved their win total from five games to eight last spring. But second-year head coach Jimmy Hughes has higher expectations for what his club can accomplish in 2020.
Hughes won’t be satisfied with another year of accumulating 20-plus losses. He believes he can help restore the program to prominence in the local region, and that they can take a large step in that direction this spring.
“We’re just trying to up the ante of what Alcovy baseball is trying to be to get it back as one of the premier programs in the Newton/Rockdale area,” he said.
Alcovy took a hit over the offseason when shortstop Ryan Spikes, a University of Tennessee commit, transferred to two-time defending Class AAAAAAA state champion Parkview to play out the final two seasons of his prep career. There’s no doubt his absence will be felt, but the Tigers still have the pieces in place to make a splash on the diamond.
“Last year was our first year implementing a new system. And we only had four seniors, so we didn’t really lose a whole lot,” Hughes said. “Losing Ryan Spikes is a big blow, but that being said, we have a lot of guys that started last season then worked through the summer, through our workouts in the fall and now through practice and our preseason games.”
Senior Hunter Owensby has cemented himself as the No. 1 starter on the bump for the Tigers. They leaned on the southpaw with a peculiar arm slot throughout Region 3-AAAAAA play last season, and he proved to be a reliable arm at the top of the rotation.
Hughes added that while Owensby will be the team’s ace, he has several other pitchers he can hand the ball to on any given day. Juniors Raquis Holmes and Lamar Williams, seniors Andrew Mills and Chris Burney, and newcomer Noah Taylor all stand out to him as guys who can eat up innings for Alcovy this spring.
“The thing I like about our guys is we’re not going to overpower anybody, but we’re going to mix speeds, we’re going to mix the ball in and out of the zone and we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Hughes said.
While Alcovy may not have an overpowering arm, the Tigers will hang their hat on backing up their staff with excellent defense in the field.
“I’m looking at our projected starting lineup and I don’t see a hole defensively,” Hughes said. “I see eight guys and several pitchers than can get the job done when we roll them out there. The bats will come, but our pitchers are going to throw strikes and our defense is going to play behind them. It’s just simple execution.”
At the plate, junior Jayden Bishop has emerged as the early favorite to lock down Alcovy’s leadoff spot. The middle of the order will be comprised of various combinations of seniors Chandler Hicks and Trace Payne, Holmes, and Burney.
But, just as the Tigers find themselves with a surplus of depth on the mound and in the field, they also have several players who project as reliable bats at several spots in the batting order.
“Honestly, it could be 30 different lineups in 30 different games,” Hughes noted. “We chart everything that we do. We’re not going to put a guy out there in a game that we don’t think is going to help us, or even help themselves, for that matter.”
The Tigers will open their season on Saturday, Feb. 15, with Alcovy Diamond Day. They will take on Stockbridge at 11:30 a.m. before returning to the field to face Morrow at 4:30 p.m.