E.A. Sports Today

In his comfort zone

Piedmont sophomore Deerman finally feels settled in with the Bulldogs, has been a ‘totally different player’ the second half of the season

Piedmont sophomore Brant Deerman (1) stands his ground while playing third base for the Bulldogs during the Calhoun County Tournament. He has since moved over to second base, a move that’s help him find a comfort zone with his new team. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

AHSAA CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS

(Series begins with Friday doubleheaders)
Wicksburg (22-9) at Gordo (28-3), 4:30 p.m.
American Christian (19-15) at Mobile Christian (23-9), 5 p.m.
Lauderdale County (18-13-1) at Piedmont (22-10), 5 p.m.
Locust Fork (19-15) at West Morgan (23-11), 5 p.m.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT – Imagine what it feels like to be the new kid in school. Now, imagine that feeling on top of joining a team with a long-standing winning tradition that’s now being coached by your dad and your uncle.

That’s a lot to absorb, especially for a young player wanting to make a good impression.

Brant Deerman doesn’t have to imagine what it’s like; he’s living it. And he’s finally gotten comfortable with it all as the starting second baseman on a 20-win Piedmont baseball team that hosts Lauderdale County (18-13-1) in the Class 3A state quarterfinals Friday.

“It’s going about as good as it can go right now,” the sophomore said. “It was rough at first playing for your uncle and dad right there; there’s a lot of pressure. It was hard at first, but now once the playoffs got started and everybody’s heating up, it couldn’t be more fun.”

Deerman transferred to Piedmont last spring after his father David stepped away from being the Jacksonville head coach to join younger brother Matt’s coaching staff with the Bulldogs. Brant ran bases for his dad as an eighth grader and last year was a starting middle infielder.

Brant knew some of his Piedmont teammates from playing against them over the years, but it’s one thing to play against guys every once in a while and another to interact with them every day.

Add to that the pressure of having to play with your uncle as head coach, your dad who used to be your head coach as your hitting and infield coach and the whole family in the stands, it could be a difficult transition.

“There was a lot on him early,” dad David said, “but I knew it was going to come along before long.”

It did take some time, both in the field where he played multiple positions as the Bulldogs searched for their fielding and pitching rotations and subsequently at the plate. But he’s gotten more comfortable with both and now is flourishing, particularly since spring break. He is currently batting .340 with a .436 on-base percentage and 24 RBIs.

“It was real tough,” Brant said. “I started out at third and I’ve never played that position before and was kind of in a slump hitting. It felt like nothing was really going my way. They kept telling me to keep pushing through and you’ll heat up later. I finally have. I’d rather heat up in playoffs than be good early.”

There were some successes early. In the beginning of the season when the Bulldogs were playing small ball to manufacture runs, he scored points with his new teammates by dropping down a couple squeezes to win games.

“I didn’t know a lot of the kids on Piedmont and I was trying to earn respect from them and show them that I deserved to be here,” Brant said. “That really helped me get through when I was in slumps.”

But he struggled in the field and after a day to reset the entire infield he was moved from third base to second (with Mason Mohon going to short and Taylor Morrow going to third when they weren’t on the mound) and that’s when he found his comfort zone.

Two weeks ago in a first-round sweep of J.B. Pennington he went 5-for-8 with six RBIs and his first career home run. Friday night he delivered what proved to be the game-winning RBI double in a 2-1 series-opening win over Oakman.

“I think it was matter of him getting comfortable not just as a player, but everything else being new,” Matt Deerman said. “A new school and a new coach and a new group of guys – that’s difficult. It doesn’t matter if you’re a coach’s son, a coach’s nephew or what, that’s just added on top of it.

“I tried to move him around positions and I don’t think he was very comfortable in any of those places. We made a move in the middle of the season I think has been a really good move. Brant’s at second all the time now and that put him into his comfort zone. He got settled in there and it in turn rolled over to his plate appearances. It all kind of happened at one time about the time we made the move defensively and he’s become the player we all expected him to.”

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