Rebels warming up

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2018

LaFAYETTE — Gavin White has confidence in the Chambers Academy baseball team.

As long as the Rebels outhustle and outwork their competitors, he believes that favorable outcomes will follow.

“As soon as we get hot,” said White, a senior, “we’re going to be hard to stop.”

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The furnace is beginning to warm.

One month into the 2018 season, Chambers Academy holds a record (6-7) that only partially reflects its composition and potential.

The Rebels have navigated a difficult early-season schedule that included dates with the defending state champion and defending state runner-up.

But recently, the team appears to have settled into a rhythm. Chambers Academy has won back-to-back contests since snapping a three-game skid last week.

On Tuesday, it pounded East Memorial Christian Academy, 10-0, behind a stellar pitching performance from White.

The game was called in the sixth inning when the run rule came into effect.

“What we’re trying do is just get a little bit better every day,” head coach Dillon NesSmith said. “They want to be good.”

NesSmith does too.

In 2017, when he served as an assistant to former head coach Matt Smith, the team experienced its best season in recent memory. The Rebels won nearly 20 games and advanced to the AISA Class A state quarterfinals.

“We had a resurgence last year,” NesSmith said. “We came in last year and we had the mindset, ‘We’re going to change the culture.’”

Smith left in the offseason to take a position at Arab High School. It is now up to NesSmith, along with a group of motivated veterans, to sustain the momentum.

White is among them.

The ace of the Rebels’ staff already has committed to play collegiately at Northwest Florida State College. But first, he has unfinished business to attend to at Chambers Academy.

White’s desire to excel is driving him and fellow senior Luke Davis to log extra hours. NesSmith drove by the school one night earlier this season to check on the field. To his surprise, he discovered the pair refining their swings in the batting cage, working under the lights.

“They’re unbelievable competitors,” NesSmith said of the duo. 

When neither is pitching, White (shortstop) and Davis (third base) anchor a stout infield. Braxton Allen catches, Payton Allen plays second and Caydon Smoot plays first.

Jordan Gillespie and Blake Sheppard, meanwhile, highlight the Rebels’ outfield.

“There’s a lot of raw talent here,” said Davis, a transfer from Opelika High School. 

That’s why Davis, along with White and NesSmith, felt a bit perplexed by the team’s start to the season.

Before their recent surge, the Rebels sat at 4-7 and were searching for answers at the plate. A lack of timely hitting countered the team’s strong showing in the field.

“That’s been our biggest goal, is just having quality at-bats,” NesSmith said.

Chambers Academy met that goal on Tuesday. Even if they couldn’t connect for a hit, many batters found a way to reach base. The Rebels will aim to duplicate their dominance on Saturday. That’s when they will take on Kingwood Christian in Alabaster.

Another victory would only fan the flame burning within the team’s furnace.

“My goal is to make a state run,” Davis said. “That’s what I came here for.”