The team lost four starters due to defection and the Bulldogs’ home baseball field, that was supposed to be done in time for the season, wasn’t completed, meaning the team had to play all of its games on the road.
Due to the setbacks, head baseball coach Royce Young wasn’t very optimistic going into the season.
“We should have had eight of our nine starters returning from last year, but we had four leave. Once that happened, our expectations went down to nothing,” Young said.
Rather than get down on themselves, Carbon Hill’s baseball team used the setbacks as motivation.
Three months later, the team was the only Walker County team still alive in the playoffs, advancing to the second round of the 3A playoffs despite its season-opening problems.
Due to his efforts with the Carbon Hill baseball team, Young is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s Baseball Coach of the Year.
Carbon Hill finished the season 14-14, but the Bulldogs’ success went beyond the numbers.
The team finished second to Winfield in area play and stunned No. 5 Vinemont in the opening round of the playoffs, winning a pair of road games to earn a spot opposite Winfield in the second round. Carbon Hill’s run ended at Winfield, but the loss didn’t take away from what the team accomplished.
“For the guys who decided to stay, we exceeded expectations,” Young said. “This was a resilient team. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it.”
Seniors Tylor Owens, Blaine Eads, Jordan Dawsey and Dylan Sargent were the leading force behind Carbon Hill’s playoff run.
Owens and Eads paced the team on the mound and at the plate.
Owens finished 3-4 with a 1.97 ERA. He also had 42 strikeouts in 46 innings. At the plate, Owens hit .413 with 21 runs, 18 stolen bases and nine RBIs.
Eads, a Lurleen B. Wallace signee, was 5-2 on the mound with a 3.60 ERA. In 50 innings, he struck out 72 batters. At the plate, he hit .324 with 13 runs and 17 RBIs.
“It’s been a special year,” Young added after the Bulldogs’ season ended against Winfield. “I only had the opportunity and pleasure of coaching them one year, but I told them that they have made Carbon Hill baseball relevant. They’ve made the second round twice in three years. They’ve set the bar for years to come.”