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Auburn signee Luke Davenport will lead the James Clemens Jets in the 2024 high school baseball season. Photo Joshua Berry

High School Baseball Preview 2024

MADISON- The 2024 high school baseball season is underway as teams hit the diamonds, many times within inclement weather conditions especially early in the campaign schedule. All of the four local teams are now in high-gear for the shot at the post-season playoffs, which begin in late April.

Here’s a look at the local baseball teams for 2024:

Bob Jones

Many of the important parts to the Bob Jones baseball machine return in 2024, which will make the Patriots one of the teams expected to work its way deep into the playoffs in Class 7A. The team’s roster is made up of 15 seniors and nine juniors, many of whom were starters for the squad last season which went 36-12, was Area 8 Champion and finished among the Elite 8.

“We are really excited about this season with many of those important parts returning,” said Bob Jones head coach Jared Smith, who should know his team by now in his ninth season as leader of the Patriots.

Included in those parts returning are three college signees led by right-handed pitcher/third baseman Braden Booth who inked his name on a scholarship to Mississippi State. A First-Team All-State selection in 2023, Booth is rated the No. 7 player in Alabama. Booth (3B/P, 6-1, 190, Sr.) was 7-1 with a 3.43 ERA on the mound in 13 appearances. He had 63 strikeouts in 53 innings. At the plate, he batted .410 with seven homers and 36 RBIs. “He will be our leader on the mound and at the plate as he is one of the best hitters and pitchers in the state,” said Smith of Booth.

“We also return Zack Johnson (C/1B/P, 6-0, 185, Jr.) behind the plate as he will be a big help with a slightly inexperienced pitching staff lacking the depth compared to the last two seasons,” said Smith. Johnson batted .312 with four homers and 30 RBIs and has committed to Alabama.

The second signee is Jacob Pearl (2B/OF, 5-6, 160, So.) who signed with Montevallo. He batted .288 with 29 RBIs last season. The third signee is Gresham Baker who chose Bevill State. Baker (3B/OF/P, 6-0, 170, Sr.) scored 28 runs and batted .250 in 2023.

Smith is also excited about having a big time lefty bat/arm transfer to the program. Dillion Adkins (OF/P, 5-10, 185, Jr.) comes to the Patriots from Chattanooga, Tenn. as a junior with a good amount of experience. Adkins has committed to sign with the Tennessee Vols.

Additional key returners include another lefty Reece Cato (1B/P, 6-1, 220, Sr.), Tanner Hermesh (P/INF, 6-0, 205, Jr.) and Jack Shaw (P/OF, 6-3, 180, Jr.).

“We feel good about our athleticism with multiple guys who can play multiple positions,” added Smith. In 2023, the squad batted .301, with 362 runs and 37 homers.

James Clemens

Also in Area 8 is the James Clemens Jets led by sixth-year head coach Johnny Johnson who will welcome 14 seniors to the 2024 campaign.

“Looking forward to coaching through the season with this group as the 14 seniors have had a lot of success at every level,” said Johnson. “They have been in our program and love to compete.”

Key returning players for the Jets in 2024 include Carson Loosier (OF, 5-4, 130, Sr.), Mason Busch (P, 6-2, 170, Sr.), Cade McComb (P, 6-4, 170, Sr.), Satchel Wheeler (1B/OF/P, 6-3, 195, Sr.). Luke Davenport (INF/P, 6-4, 190, Sr.), Ty Marsh (INF/P, 6-0, 185, Jr.), Cisco Ramirez (INF, 5-9, 145, Sr.) and J.T. Johnson (C/1B, 6-0, 195, Sr.).

Three of those key players signed with Snead St. and includes Busch, Wheeler and Johnson, who happens to be the coach’s son. Davenport will be the flagship player for the Jets. The one-time self-proclaimed better swimmer than baseball player was an All-Area selection as pitcher a year ago, and as a lifelong Auburn fan, signed with the Tigers’ program prior to his senior season.

“He has worked his tail off and is focused and driven to be the best,” said Johnson. “He has a whole plan to his success and works at it.” Davenport has gained 30 pounds to his thin frame and can hit the 90 miles per hour level with either his four-seam or two-seam fastball.

Johnson welcomes top newcomers Jesse Isensee (INF/RHP, 5-9, 155, So.), Matthew Drinkwater (INF/P, 6-1, 180, So.), Cody Hodges (P/DH, 6-2, 195, Jr.) and senior Kaleb Wilson (INF/OF, 6-0, 160, Sr.)

“With a few talented newcomers to supplement the large group of seniors, it could be a fun season,” added Johnson of the squad that was 28-14 a season ago.

Sparkman

A multitude of questions must be answered by the entire baseball program at Sparkman as the Senators head into the 2024 season as the Class 7A team lost 15 seniors off last year’s 26-15 team including Second-Team All-State infielder Jacob Haley.

First year head coach Ben Stevenson takes over the position after the retirement of six years at the helm of Jason Brewer. Don’t be fooled, Stevenson knows his program as he’s been an assistant at Sparkman for 11 years and was even a 2007 graduate of the school located on Jeff Road in Harvest. He welcomes 11 seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores and one freshman to his roster that will tangle with a season schedule which includes participating in the three-day PBR Tournament.

Sparkman will rely on four returners who saw significant time on the playing field in 2023. Those key players include Easton Henderson (SS, 5-11, 160, Sr.), Ryan Everly (P/INF, 5-10, 175, Sr.), who signed with the Wallace State Lions as a right-handed pitcher, Wyatt Shears (C/1B, 5-10, 185, Sr.) and Garrett Mullins (P, 6-0, 165, Sr.). Top newcomers to the squad are underclassmen Braxton Williams (P/3B, 6-2, 200, Fr.), Brenner VanDeWynckel (LHP, 6-0, 160, So.) and R.J. Freiholtz (P/INF, 6-2, 140, Jr.).

“We are excited about some of our young talent hoping to have some breakout seasons from these new players,” added Stevenson.

Tops in the list of the Senators is Williams who is listed as the No. 4 player in Alabama among the class of 2027. He was named to Perfect Game USA list of All-American First Team for his freshman class. His physical stature as a young age can be very intimidating as he demands attention when he steps into the batter’s box. According to recruiting services, Williams “never gets cheated with his swings and routinely generates high exits with each swing and arguably has the best power in this young class. You won’t find many more prospects that are as physically imposing.”

Playing in Area 7, the Senators were Area Champs a season ago with a 5-1 record and eventually lost in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs to eventual State Champion Vestavia Hills.

Madison Academy

Although looking at the 2024 roster for the Madison Academy baseball team you see a mere three seniors listed, head coach David Pressley isn’t overly concerned with the lack of older players ready to hit the diamond for the Mustangs.

“We have a few kids who have been in the lineup for multiple years and I think we will have quality leadership from them,” said Pressley.

Into his eighth season as head coach, Pressley is happy with who he has returning from last year’s team which was Area Champion and lost in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs with a 24-16 overall record. The team is comprised of three seniors, 12 juniors, three sophomores, along with one each in grades nine and eight.

Key returners for Madison Academy are Maddox Meadows (INF/C, Sr.) who batted .327 with four homers and 42 RBIs a season ago; Tee Foster (SS/P, Jr.), a Class 5A Honorable Mention All-State selection who clobbered 15 doubles and three homers for 40 RBIs and a .424 average in 2023; Jack Doyle (P, Jr.) who was 5-2 last season with a 2.64 ERA; Keaton Watson (C, Jr.) who had an average of .350 with four doubles and 26 RBIs while he threw out 43-percent of base stealers from his catcher position; Davis Parker (OF, Jr.) posted eight doubles and a .307 batting average; Shane Duke (1B/P, Jr.) who has committed to the University of Tampa.

Pressley is anxious to see a top newcomer to his team in Myles Johnson (OF, Jr.) who has committed to Eastern Kentucky.

“We have an amazing group of kids who have been working hard their whole lives to win,” said Pressley. “They love and compete for one another, and we are excited to see what we can do.”

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