Season Preview: Valley baseball looks for a deep playoff run
Published 11:01 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024
The Valley Rams are heading into their third baseball season under head coach Mike Meadows, and this team looks to be as deep as any in years past.
The Rams won their area last season, but the team was eliminated by Tallassee in the first round of the state playoffs. The Rams have not forgotten the feeling of falling in the first round at home, and the team expects to make a deeper run this season.
“Naturally, we want to win the area and try to make a deeper run than what we made last year,” Meadows said. “The kids kind of have a bitter taste in their mouths because of the way it ended last year. They felt like they should’ve gone deeper than we did. Their goals are to make it deeper this year.”
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Pitching is set to be one of the strong points for Valley this season. The Rams return several starters as they return several key parts of the starting rotation and bullpen.
“I think our pitching will be our strong point this year,” Meadows said. “We bring back all three starters from last year. We bring back one of our top relief guys.”
Jackson Sanders, an Auburn signee, CJ Chambley and Seth Hammock will make up the starters for Valley. Sanders and Chambley are both returning as seniors while Hammond looks to improve in his senior season. Sanders will headline that group after finishing with a 2.24 ERA and 51 strikeouts last season.
“Just need him to be a leader, and go out and give us good quality starts every time he touches the mound,” Meadows said about Sanders.
Sanders will be the leader of the pitching staff, but he is also set to be a key leader for the team as a whole.
“I feel like this is one of the best groups we’ve had in a long time,” Sanders said. “I feel like team chemistry is at an all-time high.”
Carter Green, Clayton Sanders, Matthew Mcdonald, Bryson Monteith, Ty Monteith as well as a few freshmen will fill out Valley’s bullpen.
Clayton Sanders will play a major role this season rotating in at several different positions and playing a key role in the bullpen.
“This year I want to focus on keeping my walks down,” Sanders said. “Going to the plate and getting on base any way I can.”
The Rams have a major gap to fill at catcher after Trevor Rudd graduated after last season. Freshmen Mason Yarbrough and Bryant Hopkins will battle for the starting position, but both will likely see playing time this season. Carter Green will also fill in at catcher some this season.
Yarbrough started a lot last season as an eighth grader, but he mostly saw time in left field.
“They both do pretty well,” Meadows said about Yarbrough and Hopkins, “They seem to handle our pitching staff well. They’ve both done well in practice so far this year. They don’t seem to be intimidated.”
Jackson Sanders and Carter Green will each rotate at first base depending on who is pitching that night. Sanders carried a .387 batting average last season.
The rest of the infield is set to be handled by a platoon of versatile guys. CJ Chambley and Seth Hammock will play multiple positions. Ty Monteith and Seth Hammock will rotate at second base, but Hammock will also see time at shortstop.
Chambley will rotate with Mcdonald and Hammock at shortstop, but Chambley will also play at third along with Bryson Monteith. Meadows considers Chambley to carry one of the better bats on the team this season. Jax Miller is set to rotate at first base as well as at first base.
“Just coming out to work every day, getting better as a team,” Chambley said about his mindset this season. “It’s not really about what I do, I think it’s more about what my team does and how we succeed.”
Braylon Carter and Bryson Monteith will make up two of the outfield spots this season, and Jackson Sanders will play some outfield as well along with Hammock.
“We’ve got good chemistry this year, and we’ve got a good team bond,” Monteith said. “I feel like we’re going to have a good run at it this year. I’m just excited, ready to see where we’re at in May.”
The Rams should be solid with the bat and with its starting rotation this season, but fielding is an area that Meadows hopes to see improvement from.
“We haven’t played real good defense the past two years,” Meadows said. “At times we have, but consistently we have not been a very good team defensively. I believe you’ve got to play good defensively.”
Valley opens its season on Feb. 15 on the road against Clay Central. The Rams start off with two road games before eventually returning to Valley for the home opener against Russell County on Feb. 17.