The keys for Valley’s hot start on the diamond

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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We are nearly one month into high school baseball season in Alabama. Some local teams are still finding their footing and looking to improve. On the other hand, the Valley Rams have all cylinders firing and look like a true contender early on. 

Valley is off to a 9-1 start to the season, with the Rams only loss coming to Elmore County on Feb. 20. 

While every head coach plans for success, Valley coach Mike Meadows could not have expected his team to be in this position in early March. 

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“It’s a little surprising,” Meadows said. “To be sitting where we’re at, it’s a little surprising. I think coming in we’d be able to pitch the ball well, and I thought we’d play good defense. I thought we would hit the ball a little better than we have, but we have not swung it real well. We’ve been in some close games and found a way to win them.” 

While the Rams have not been necessarily electric at the plate, Valley has found a way to come up with clutch hits. That has led to the Rams winning six of their games by two runs or less. 

“We just seem to get that big hit at the right time,” Meadows said. “Manage to get some guys on, and somehow or another, we seem to get the clutch hit when we need it to score some runs. That’s been the key.” 

Coming into the season, Meadows knew that Valley’s pitching staff and defense would lead the way. So far that has held true as the Rams have given up just over three runs per game. 

“We’ve pitched it well every game except one,” Meadows said. “We’ve been good on the mound. That game was a little misleading. We had a chance to get out of that first inning only giving up a couple of runs, and we kicked a couple of balls around. We make a couple of plays right there, that game would’ve been closer.” 

The pitching staff for Valley has been led by some dominant performances from CJ Chambley, Jackson Sanders, Matthew Mcdonald and Seth Hammock. The group has led the team to an earned run average of just under three runs. 

“Seth has thrown well twice,” Meadows said. “Our guys in relief, Matthew Mcdonald has been good out of the bullpen. He’s played well at short. Carter Green has been really good in the closing role for us. I think he’s closed five games for us.” 

Sanders has started three games this season for the Rams. Sanders has pitched 10 innings, allowing no earned runs and striking out 27 batters. 

Sanders has also been the team’s leader at the plate. Sanders is currently posting a .520 batting average and a team-leading 10 RBIs.
“Naturally, Jackson has done well,” Meadows said. “He’s thrown well, he’s hit well.” 

Chambley has been Valley’s inning eater this season as he leads the team with 13 innings pitched in four games played and three starts. Chambley has an ERA of 0.54 and has struck out 10 batters this season. 

Chambley has also been one of Valley’s most dominant players at the plate. Chambley holds a .385 batting average and leads the team with 12 runs.
“He threw Saturday against Marbury and was probably as good as I’ve seen him in two years,” Meadows said. “He was good his first two times out, but he was really good Saturday. Getting a quality start out of him every time has been big.” 

The Rams have a fairly young team this season with just four seniors. Younger players like Mason Yarbrough and Mcdonald have stepped up for Valley this season.
“Mason being a freshman, has done really good behind the plate,” Meadows said. “He’s done a good job for us.” 

Many teams around the state would love to have this kind of start, but Valley is not resting on its laurels. Meadows and the rest of the coaching staff are focused on the team improving their approach at the plate and becoming better hitters. 

Errors were also an issue early on for the Rams, and the team is still looking to clean up some of those issues moving forward. 

“I still think we can play better defensively,” Meadows said. “Up until the last few ballgames, we were still making one or two errors a game. I think we can clean that up some. I think we can be a lot better at the plate. So far, it’s been the top part of our lineup doing it. We’ve really got to get some production from the bottom part of our lineup. Your teams that do good and make a run at it, don’t have any weak spots in their lineup. That’s where we’ve got to get to.” 

Meadows and the coaching staff have been working in practice to improve Valley’s approach at the plate. Most teams have been pitching away to Valley, and the Rams are working to produce more and cover the whole plate. 

Valley’s four seniors, Sanders, Bryson Monteith, Chambley and Clayton Sanders have served as the team’s leaders in the locker room this season. The coaching staff has been thrilled early on with the team leadership. Monteith has been the energizer for the team this season. 

“Bryson Monteith, he’s kind of our spark plug,” Meadows said. “He got hurt the first weekend and missed all of the second week of the season. We really missed him… We’ve had good leadership. He’s back now. The last few games, you can tell he’s back. You’re going to hear him. You need that guy that kind of keeps everybody going.” 

Valley has been an aggressive team throughout Meadows’ tenure as head coach, but the Rams have put it all together on the base path this season. 

Valley has already totaled 22 stolen bases this season, and the Rams have scored 60 runs in 10 games. 

“That’s something we’ve always preached, but I think we’ve done a little better this year of trying to get better reads on dirt balls and taking advantage of opportunities that are given to us,” Meadows said. “We try to preach that a lot in practice.” 

The product on the field so far this season has been impressive for the Rams, but the more impressive aspect of the program has been the crowd support. 

The Ram faithful have packed Crestview Field this season, and that has led to an inspired output for all involved with the team. 

“Our home crowds are great man,” Meadows said. “These kids notice that. I try to promote them on Facebook and get people to come out and support them, but I want to continue to thank everybody for that. My kids have noticed it, I’ve noticed it and it means a lot. We have good home crowds and I appreciate it.”