Younger players top All-Area Baseball Team

June 07, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

It just might be a rebuilding year for the All-Area baseball team.

There are several special seniors on The Advocate-Messenger All-Area Baseball Team. But this year they're outnumbered by younger players, as four juniors and three sophomores were voted to the 12-man squad by the area's eight coaches.

Only two players - Zack Gross of Burgin and Ronnie Hawkins of Danville - return from last year's All-Area team, while the two-man pitching staff, most of the infield and one outfielder will be eligible to return in 2005.

Nine of the 12 players on the All-Area roster - there are 12 because of a tie at second base - come from the four area teams with winning records: four from Boyle County, three from Mercer County and two from Danville.


The Advocate's Area Coach of the Year comes from Mercer, where Jeremy Shope, whose Scotties won 17 regular-season games, then won the 46th District for the fourth time in five years, wins the award for the second time in three years.

A closer look at the All-Area honorees:

Evan Teague

Teague became Boyle's big gun on the mound, just as Boyle coach David Camic hoped he would.

"Going into the preseason, we were hoping he would step up and be our No. 1 starter, and he proved to be that by season's end," Camic said.

Teague finished with an 8-4 record and a 3.65 earned-run average, and he had a team-high 85 strikeouts. He won his last three regular-season starts, striking out 37 batters in those three games.

"I think he's got big-time potential as a starter," Camic said. "He needs to get a little stronger velocity-wise and be more consistent."

Michael Bottoms

A reconstructed Mercer team looking for new leaders found one in Bottoms, who emerged as both the top pitcher and the top hitter for the Scotties.

"He has really stepped up," Shope said. "He had a couple of rough outings early in the season, but he's been throwing the ball well as of late. He's throwing strikes, he's eliminated the high walks, and that has been a big plus as of late."

Bottoms had 61 strikeouts and 47 walks in 63 innings. He had five wins, three losses and one save in 14 appearances with a 3.44 ERA. At the plate, he hit .434 (49-for-113) with seven home runs and 35 RBIs, all team highs.

"He's also been one of our top hitters," Shope said.

Sean Bottoms

Bottoms has been a fixture as Burgin's catcher since his eighth-grade year, when he saw that position as his fastest route to playing time.

"He said that's a position I could make the team at, and he's been back there ever since," Burgin coach Terry Pitman said. "If the other team gets somebody on, you don't have to worry about passed balls, and if they try to steal Sean will pop out of there and throw him out."

Bottoms, who will attend Purdue with an eye toward engineering and plans to try out for the team there, hit .250 and ranked second on the Bulldogs in home runs (five) and RBIs (28). He played a solid center field on occasion, but Pitman said he was too valuable behind the plate to spend much time in the outfield.

"He just ran down balls left and right, but when you put him in the outfield, you lose him behind the plate," Pitman said.

John Wickliffe

Like Michael Bottoms, Wickliffe has blossomed in a much larger role at Mercer this season.

"John's got a great eye at the plate," Shope said. "He's a very patient hitter; he only swings at pitches around the strike zone. That's the mark of a good hitter."

Wickliffe hit .398 with five homers and 22 RBIs and led the Scotties in stolen bases, where he was a perfect 16-for-16 and in triples (three), walks (18) and runs (38).

Blake Yeager

Yeager took over at second base for Mercer this season, and he took to the position easily with a solid defensive season.

"He had some big shoes to fill at second base (in) Brett Anness, and he's filled them," Shope said. "Defensively, he's made almost every play."

Yeager also made important contributions on offense, hitting .349 (30-for-106) with four home runs and 19 RBIs.

"Blake has had a very good year considering he had not played hardly any varsity time before this year," Shope said.

Andrew West

At 5-5, West is easily the smallest All-Area player, but he came up big time after time this season, leading Boyle in hitting and repeatedly making impressive plays on defense.

"Pound for pound, he might be the best player in the region," Camic said.

West hit .406, and he also led the Rebels in walks (39) and runs, and he was a contact specialist with only four strikeouts in 106 at-bats. Defensively, he made a seamless move from center field to second base after the season began.

"He sacrificed for us a little bit when we moved him from the outfield to the middle infield, and our defense got better after we moved him to the infield," Camic said.

Jeremy Potts

There may be no more steady force on defense than Potts, whose play at shortstop has been a calming influence for Danville pitchers and their coach.

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