Joe Medley: Alexandria proves Brooks right: Valley Cubs really are county’s best
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Mar 06, 2013 | 5868 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Wes Brooks wasn’t playing coy when the Oxford coach called Alexandria the best baseball team in Calhoun County before the county tournament.

It wasn’t like the old catcher was talking to the batter, setting him up for the nasty changeup about to come.

The coach of the defending Class 6A championship program was just being honest and, turns out, knew better than those who seeded the Yellow Jackets No. 1 and Class 4A Alexandria No. 3.

And Brooks didn’t mind a told-you-so after Alexandria beat Oxford 3-1 in Wednesday’s county final at Jacksonville’s Henry Farm Park, scoring the Valley Cubs’ first county title in baseball since 2007.

“They just complement each other,” Brooks said. “The offense complements the defense, and both of those together complement the pitching for all three phases.

“When you talk football, you have offense, defense and special teams, and they have offense, defense and pitching. I think they’ve got a complete team.”

It all came together for Alexandria on Wednesday, especially the pitching and defense. Tanner Wells pitched a complete-game three-hitter, and left-fielder Justice Owens made two gems in the field.

Owens made a sliding catch in foul territory in the bottom of the sixth inning. He also went back to the fence to flag down what looked, for a moment, to be Trent Simpson’s game-tying home run in the seventh.

“It feels good,” Wells said. “I hadn’t been in this atmosphere, and it feels good to win.”

In fairness, the outcome of this year’s county tourney was also about what Oxford lost from 2012. Starting pitchers Jackson Stephens and Zach Lovvorn are playing professional baseball, and Tucker Simpson starts for the University of Florida.

Trent Simpson’s return to the lineup as designated hitter Wednesday — after months of work to mend a football-season knee injury — gave the Yellow Jackets two starters from the team that won county and state titles.

Oxford’s losses can best be summed up in runs. The Jackets scored 50 in this tournament a year ago and less than half (24) this year, including one in the final. A year ago, they beat Jacksonville 13-3 in the final.

But Oxford wasn’t the only 2013 county finalist missing departed stars. Alexandria lost five seniors from last year’s team, which went on the road to sweep Childersburg in the second round of the playoffs and missed the semifinals by a one-run game against Oneonta.

Among the Valley Cubs’ losses were starting pitchers Justin Bowen and Ty Whaley and shortstop Tyler Burr.

Pitching doesn’t appear to be a problem for Alexandria this year, and insert shortstop Dalton Cobb. The Saks transfer was most valuable player of the county tournament.

“He fits right in with these guys because he plays hard and he’s competitive,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said. “That’s the big thing. Our kids are real competitive.”

They’re also county champions, something that hasn’t happened to Alexandria since a guy named Jake Welch was a senior.

Just one warning from history, however, and Shaw was quick to remind his team how that 2007 team finished.

“We were, like, 10-1 and won the county and came back from Gulf Shores ranked No. 1 and didn’t make the playoffs,” Shaw said. “We can’t let this be the summit of the year.”

Then again, Alexandria just beat the defending county and 6A champions for the Valley Cubs’ first county title in six years.

“It’s great for the Alexandria community, always, to win, and we’ve got a great group of seniors that will remember this for a long time,” Shaw said. “I’m just so proud of the way we played.

“We played against a great team and great program, such a class program, coach Brooks and them.”

Ah yes, Wes Brooks, the old catcher who tried to tell everyone that Alexandria is the best team in the county. Any more predictions, coach?

“I think all four teams in the semifinals,” Brooks said, referring to Alexandria, Oxford, Jacksonville and Piedmont, “will be playing in late April and early May.”

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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