E.A. Sports Today

New Monster

Alexandria grad Allen takes the mound, impresses in first outing to help Choccolocco Monsters sweep visiting Atlanta Crackers

Cover photo: Former Alexandria High pitcher Andrew Allen pitches for the Sunbelt League’s Choccolocco Monsters against the Atlanta Crackers on Sunday at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Andrew Allen acknowledges that the Sunbelt League, a summer wood bat league for college players, “frowns upon” playing incoming freshmen.

The recent Alexandria grad and newest Choccolocco Monster turned frowns upside down in his first appearance against all college competition on Sunday.

Allen took a perfect into the fifth innings and allowed one hit with eight strikeouts and no walks as the Monsters downed the visiting Atlanta Crackers 10-2 in the second game of a doubleheader at Choccolocco Park.

The Monsters (10-6) surrendered a 4-0 lead with two outs in the seventh inning but won the opener 8-7 in extra innings, but Allen’s addition and strong first outing highlighted the Monsters’ night.

Choccolocco Monsters coach Ricky Ray Clayton meets pitcher Andrew Allen as Allen comes off of the field after the fifth inning of Sunday’s second game of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Crackers at Choccolocco Park. Catcher Jacob Cooper walks ahead of them. (Photo by Joe Medley)

“He did a really good job,” Monsters coach Ricky Ray Clayton said. “I actually hadn’t gotten to see him pitch in a while, and it was fun to watch him pitch.

“It was fun to watch him have fun. You see a high school kid come in and pitch at this level, and he’s out there having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Sunbelt League concept emphasizes current college players. Allen, and Arkansas State signee, helped Alexandria win a Class 5A state title, the school’s first in baseball, in May.

Despite missing five weeks with an in-season knee injury, he returned and performed well enough to be named first-team All-State and the Alabama Sports Writers Association 5A pitcher of the year. He was most valuable player of the 5A title series against Mobile Christian.

He’s played with Top Gun Athletics’ 18-under team since the high school season.

The Monsters, which moved back to Oxford after spending the 2023 season in Columbus, Ga., got a late start assembling a roster. Pitching depth suffered, so Monsters general manager Roby Brooks, also Top Gun’s owner, got Allen aboard.

“I got a call the other night asking if I could throw, and I said yes,” Allen said. “I had to go through the registration process, and I was able to throw tonight.”

His start would’ve occurred Saturday, but weather forced the doubleheader with Atlanta to Sunday.

Clayton, an assistant coach for Etowah High School, has coached against Allen and coached Allen in travel ball.

“I guess incoming freshmen can play,” Clayton said. “I know they (league officials) don’t like it, but a guy like him? He’s ready.

“Not everybody’s ready, and that’s kind of the deal, but he’s ready. He’s groomed. He’s pitched at a very high level for a couple of years now.”

Allen faced 16 batters, one over the minimum, Sunday and threw 43 strikes among 64 pitches. Parker Ladd’s one-out single in the fifth inning marked the only blemish, and Allen responded by inducing consecutive fly balls to end the at bat.

Clayton met Allen at the first-base line and congratulated him.

“This is what I’ve been wanting to do,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to face some college guys before going to college.

“It was a pretty good night, for sure. It felt pretty good.”

Jake Goolsby hit his third home run of the season and drove in a team-best three runs to lead the Monsters’ offense in the second game. Cole Tremain and Spring Garden grad Weston Kirk each had two hits and an RBI, and the Monsters blew the game open with a five-run third inning to lead 8-0.

Sunday’s opener had far more twists and turns.

The Monsters led 4-0 going into the top of the seventh. Down to their last out, the Crackers scored four runs on five singles and a walk to tie the game. The Monsters didn’t score in the bottom of the seventh, and the game went to extra innings and the international tiebreaker.

Oxford High grad Trey Higgins, who hit a solo home run in the second inning, laced an RBI single as the Monsters scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to answer Kaleb Huffman’s two-run home run in the top of the inning.

The Crackers retook a 7-6 lead in the ninth, but Hugh Windle reached on an error to start the Monsters’ two-run ninth. Eli Tidwell ended it with a single.

“That game lets you know that every single pitch matters in every single game, no matter what,” Clayton said. “We’re up 4-0 with two outs in the last inning and nobody on and then end up giving up, like, six or seven hits in a row.

“It’s just crazy how the game works. You have to finish the game, no matter what. … It’s hard to get the last out, especially against guys in college.”

Now a half-game behind the league-leading Gainesville GolDiggers, the Monsters will go on the road to play the last-place Brookhaven Bucks on Monday and Wednesday.

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