Lanett baseball hopes senior leadership leads to more wins this season

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

LANETT — The Lanett baseball team is still taking the steps of improvement under the Panthers’ fourth-year head coach Hunter Ames.

“I’m feeling good about the team this season,” Ames said. “It was tough.”

Lanett won one game in Ames’ first season with the Panthers, and two games his second year. In 2018, Lanett won four games. Despite the team’s 21-8 loss to Beulah on opening day, Ames still sees the growth in his program and the potential for this team to be the best during his stint at Lanett yet.

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“I’m liking our chances this season,” he said. “I’m liking that we’re in a new area. I’m really enjoying that. We finally got to get out of the region with Reeltown and Horseshoe Bend. Those two schools have tremendous programs that always go deep into the playoffs. It was tough playing in that region. I’m not discrediting the region we’re in at all this year, but I like the playing field better.”

Now in 1A, Lanett is in the same region as Wadley, a team that also lost to Beulah 7-1 earlier this week and Loachapoka. Notasulga would also be in the area, but the Blue Devils classified as a JV team this season, according to Ames.

The Panthers are returning a lot of athletic utility players this year, led by senior Christian Sparks. Sparks will primarily play catcher in addition to playing everywhere else on the field. On most game days, he’ll either be at the top or will be hitting No. 2 in the lineup for Lanett.

“He is consistent with getting on base,” Ames said of Sparks. “He is going to steal a lot of bases.”

Hitting third in the lineup is senior athlete Kolby Davidson. Davidson, who’s signed to play football this fall at Point University, raked in a game-leading two hits on opening day at Beulah. He also threw 15 first-pitch strikes in 2.1 innings on the mound.

“I was just focused,” Davidson said. “I was focused on how I approached practice every day trying to get ready for the entire season.”

Hitting behind Kolby Davidson is his twin brother Kaleb Davidson at the No. 4 spot in the lineup.

“Those guys have got some power,” Ames said of the Davidson brothers. “They’ve been exciting to watch. I’m excited about having them.”

The Panthers excel at bunting, Ames said, and one of the better bunters on the team is senior Khalil Cunningham. Senior Kane Brumbaugh has returned to the team this season to field at third base after taking a pair of seasons off.

“I love the intensity he has at third base,” Ames said of Brumbaugh. “He might not always catch it, but he’s going to block it up at third.”

The team’s veteran leadership is one of the main reasons why Ames believes that this year will be different from seasons prior.

“I actually have seniors,” he said. “Last year, we had a really good senior in Shon Meadows. He was a tough one to lose. The year prior, I lost one senior and it was his first year playing. The first year I was here, my seniors were Jeremy Martin and Austin Blunt. Those guys were great, and I miss them a lot, but this is the first year that we’ve had five seniors. That leadership has helped tremendously this season.”

Junior Kristian Story won’t be able to play baseball this spring due to the surgery he had after basketball and ahead of football season next fall, but Ames said that Story will remain around the team to help teach and coach other players.

Lanett alum Shavario Brooks, class of 2010, has returned for his second season this year as an assistant coach. He said that while the Panthers’ history hasn’t always been the greatest in the win column, the potential has always been there due to the athleticism that walks through the school’s halls on a daily basis.

“The athleticism at this school is special,” Brooks said. “Especially being classified as a 1A team for the next couple of years, it’s special. I ask the players if they want to be a good athlete or a good baseball player? A lot of them answer that they want to be a good baseball player, and that comes from gaining knowledge of the game. You can be as athletic as you could be, but until you become a good ball player, it won’t be applied as much.”

Lanett is scheduled to travel to play at LaFayette on Friday night, but the field conditions might affect the game’s possibility of still happening. Next Tuesday, Lanett goes on the road to face Beulah in a grudge match.