E.A. Sports Today

Playing for more

Golden Eagles try to stay focused on baseball while their hearts are with families back in storm-ravaged Jacksonville

The Jacksonville High School baseball team is welcomed to their condo in Gulf Shoals, where now the Golden Eagles are playing for their community as well as themselves. (Special photo)

NOTE: Contains updated information

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

GULF SHORES — When the Jacksonville baseball team left town for its spring break trip Sunday, the trip was all about baseball and bonding. It has since become a lot more.

At about the same time the Golden Eagles were playing their rain-delayed first game in the Gulf Shores Classic I Monday night their community back home was getting pounded by an EF-3 tornado. All of a sudden, baseball was secondary.

That’s what coach David Clark told them after they had beaten Little Rock (Ark.) Central 14-4 behind a complete game by Taye Loud.

The adults around the team tried as best they could keep the news from the players while the game was in progress, even while Clark’s normally silent cell phone was constantly ringing in the dugout, but several of the parents who made the trip started heading back to check on their interests.

It was later discovered the homes of four players – starters Josh Glass, Blake Morris and Austin Lackey among them – and that of the brother of an assistant coach had suffered significant to catastrophic damage.

Clark was a little reluctant to tell the players because it would deflate one of their best nights of the season on the field, but he knew what was required and handled it appropriately. As one of the parents explained, Clark “turned baseball off and let the team know what happened. I heard him say ‘We played a great game but there are more important things in life than baseball.’”

He then told the Golden Eagles to immediately reach out to their loved ones back home and when they all got back to the condo about an hour away he wanted to hear from every player and coach about their situation back home.

“A great man handled a tough emotional situation last night,” the parent said.

Clark wrestled with the idea of cutting the trip short and bringing the team back to Jacksonville, but didn’t have enough information at the time to make a decision. It was discussed again in the morning and decided given what they knew was happening back home they were better off staying together where they were.

“I think the best thing really for the kids and for us is to have the people around you, that support system around you,” Clark said. “We decided as a group to stay and finish what we started and when we get back to Jacksonville on Thursday we’ll move forward from there … to help them through a really rough time.”

And that’s where their perspective on the trip changed.

“It’s galvanized us in a way, brought us a lot closer,” Clark said. “For me and lot of our kids I think it turns it in. You share things with people and start to play more for the person next to you more than just you; the focus comes off you now.

“Baseball is all about numbers and what did you do, it lends itself to be easily pushed into individual things and I think what this does for us, you start to play for other people and start to play for Jacksonville now instead of whoever it is. It put it back into what it’s really all about, being a group and sharing things and helping each other out.”

The Golden Eagles returned to the field Tuesday and beat Valley View (Ark.) 4-3. Dylan Murphy had a no-hitter through four innings and Colton Clark snuffed out a two-out threat in the seventh to preserve an emotional win.

For sure, with each break in the action the players’ hearts and thoughts were on the goings-on back home.

“It’s all our homes; whether it’s yours or not it’s going to affect all of us in some way,” Clark said. “You’ve always got to keep things in the perspective they belong. We tend to put a lot of importance on athletics and doing well as individuals, but it’s not the most important thing. I think that realization couldn’t have been more apparent to us than it was Monday night.”

They wrap up the regular portion of the trip with two games Wednesday – against Brentwood (Tenn.) and Stillwater (Okla.) – and could qualify for the playoff round Thursday.


Tournament officials and opposing coaches are reaching out to the Golden Eagles as the players try to balance baseball with their thoughts of recovery back home.

The Alabama flag at the stadium is at half mast. Donation buckets for Jacksonville relief are at all four tournament venues.

Stillwater’s head coach Jimmy Harris handed Jacksonville coach David Clark $400 to help towards the effort. Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, whose son plays for the Stillwater team and is attending the tournament, helped towards that and sent his thoughts and prayers from the Stillwater and Oklahoma State community.

Their community is quite familiar with the ravages of violent weather in the heart of Tornado Alley.

The Golden Eagles lost their first game today 6-4 to Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy. They led 3-0 and were tied 3-3 going into the seventh.

Oxford’s Jarin Turner is somewhere in that mass of humanity after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning against Hartselle. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Oxford 12, Hartselle 1: Tate Adams hit a three-run double, Jarin Turner hit a three-run homer and the Yellow Jackets erupted for nine runs in the second inning to beat the No. 1 team in Class 6A in five innings.

The Jackets sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning to erase a 1-0 deficit. They hammered 13 hits in the game. Brody Syer, Brennan McCullough, Turner, Trey Higgins and Peyton Howard each had two.

Syer started and allowed three hits and an unearned run in four innings, striking out five. Brantley Bargerhuff set Hartselle down in order in the fifth.

Hartselle beat Oak Mountain, the No. 8 team in the nation, 2-0 in an earlier game.

Hartselle 100 00 – 1 3 1
Oxford 091 2x – 12 13 2

WP: Brody Syer. LP: Burks.
2B: Nix (H), Easterling (H), Jaren Turner (O), Brennan McCullough (O), Tate Adams (O). HR: Jarin Turner (O). RBIs – Hartselle: Nix; Oxford: Brody Syer, Reece Howard 2, Brennan McCullough, Tate Adams 3, Jaren Turner 3, Peyton Howard.

To see a gallery of photos from the Hartselle-Oak Mountain and Hartselle-Oxford games, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com.

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