E.A. Sports Today

Where all roads lead

Wallace-Hanceville has landed six Calhoun/Cleburne County baseball players over the past two seasons, three on Wednesday

Cleburne County pitcher/outfielder Trevor Houston is flanked by Tigers coach Vaughn Lee (L) and Wallace-Hanceville assistant Ben Hawkins (R). Houston celebrated his signing with Wallace, where he’ll be teammates with Oxford’s Caden Higgins and Brennan McCullough (cover).

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Ben Hawkins had a busy morning. The Wallace-Hanceville assistant baseball coach spent some quality time Wednesday at the Oxford Sports Arena for a signing ceremony there, then had to shoot down I-20 for another ceremony in Heflin.

The Wallace baseball coaches have gotten to know their way around Calhoun County quite well these days.

With the signings of Oxford’s Brennan McCullough and Caden Higgins and later Cleburne County’s Trevor Houston on this last day of the signing period, the Lions will have collected a half dozen baseball players from Calhoun-Cleburne counties the last two years.

They also have Alexandria leadoff hitter Griffin Carroll earlier this signing period, former Alexandria infielder Dalton Cobb (from Jax State) and got versatile Piedmont slugger Easton Kirk last year.

“It’s a really rich area right now,” Hawkins said before taking his leave of his two Oxford signees. “When you can kind of make a name for yourself in this area and other kids who are younger start seeing other guys going to this school they’re going to say there’s a reason why these guys are signing to go here so I want to see what this is all about and it makes it a little bit easier on us.

“This area has been really good to us, so we’re going to hope it keeps being good to us and we’re going to keep coming down here to this area.”

That reason McCullough and Higgins – as well as Houston – chose Wallace is because they all saw the Lions as a blue-collar program that would keep them engaged similar to the one they’re involved with now. They were part of a signing celebration Wednesday that included teammates Tate Adams (Southern Union) and Cayden Sparks (Huntingdon) and softball infielder Ashlyn Miller (Mobile).

McCullough and Higgins have been regulars in the Yellow Jackets’ lineup the last three years; McCullough, a three-year starter, was the MVP of last year’s Calhoun County Tournament. Adams and Sparks were developmental players who delivered in every clutch situation they were subjected and will be regulars this coming season.

Higgins saw his first action as a pinch-runner as a freshman and scored virtually every time he got on base. He has developed into a smart hitter, a “pest on the base paths” and a solid defensive middle infielder.

McCullough has made a major impact for the Jackets from the first game he played as a freshman, laying out for a diving catch in the outfield against Hoover. He has been among the Jackets’ top three hitters each of the last two years.

When he was younger he didn’t think the county tournament was that big a deal because the Jackets dominated it so much, but since he’s started playing in it “that’s my favorite week of the year.”

Adams showed his promise right out of the gate. He made his first varsity appearance as a sophomore in an emergency relief appearance against nationally ranked Sparkman and struck out the two batters he faced to quash a big inning.

Sparks made an impact on on both sides of the plate last year. He gave up one unearned run in three pitching appearances with an OBA of .071 and when he was thrust into the starting catcher’s role at the start of the season the Jackets went 6-0.

Miller has been part of the softball program since the seventh grade and was named the Lady Jackets’ most improved player in the program in 2015 and 2016. She has had more than 40 hits each of the last two seasons and coach Wendy McKibbin expects “great things” from her this season.

“Each kid has a different story, but in each kid’s legacy they will leave here this is a moment,” Oxford baseball coach Wes Brooks said. “This is not the end, this is the beginning; today starts a new legacy they are going to have at (their colleges).

“I guess the word for today is what type of legacy are you going to leave and today just kind of puts an exclamation point – not an ending, but an exclamation point – on their legacy they plan to leave here at Oxford High School. This is just a reward that’s going to go along with their life’s journey, which has really just now begun.”

Oxford second baseman Ashlyn Miller signs her softball scholarship to the University of Mobile.

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