As the season turns towards the summer swoon, it’s time to honor those who made a difference on the diamond.
It was another successful year for several Fayette County teams. Starr’s Mill continued their pitching dominance as they won back-to-back region titles. The Panthers also earned a trip to the Class AAAAA Final Four.
Whitewater also surprised many teams this year. After falling below .500 early in the season, the Wildcats found their stride and made it to the Elite Eight of the playoffs. They were able to jump ahead of McIntosh and host two series at home. The Chiefs finished third and made the first round of the state playoffs.
Sandy Creek, Our Lady of Mercy, and Fayette County all had productive seasons and made strides towards contention next season. Each team has generated buzz around the program as star players emerged and new coaches arrived on the scene.
With that said, here is the standout performers on the All-County Team:
Player of the Year: Hayes Heinecke—Starr’s Mill
Heinecke, a Wofford commit, was excellent on the mound as he went 7-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 61 innings pitched. He also collected 80 strikeouts as the ace of the staff and was a big reason that the Panthers held region opponents to just four runs all season. On top of that, he also hit .310 with 4 home runs and had an on-base percentage of .500.
Coach of the Year: Rusty Bennett
Bennett was instrumental in helping a young Wildcats team reach their highest potential. After starting the year 4-9, Bennett and the Wildcats righted the ship and went 22-13-1 as many players had a career-year on the diamond. Whitewater also went 14-4 in the region a secured a second-place finish, behind Starr’s Mill.
Freshman of the Year: Thad Ector
Ector burst on the scene as a talented freshman. He showed a keen discipline at the plate and speed to create havoc on the base paths. He batted .381 with 6 doubles and had a .463 on-base percentage as a first-year player.
1st Team Pitchers and Catchers
It’s an exciting bunch that make up the All-County First Team pitching staff. McIntosh starter Connor Koscevic, Whitewater’s Landon Busby, and Starr’s Mill’s Dawson Sweatt all had great seasons on the mound. Koscevic went 3-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 35 innings pitched. He also collected 36 strikeouts. Busby was 4-0 with a 1.8 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. Sweatt, and Auburn signee, finished his season going 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.
Behind the plate, Starr’s Mill catcher Charlie Mizzell earned first-team honors. Mizzell was the heart and soul of the Panthers this season as he batted .366 with 3 homers, 5 doubles, and a .482 on-base percentage. The senior is committed to play at Young Harris College next spring.
1st Team Infielders
There was a wealth of infield talent in the county this season. Starr’s Mill and McIntosh both had standout players that earned first-team honors. Panthers’ duo Brian Port and Mitchell Sutton joined two Chiefs, Dane Kinamon and Jake Bukowski, on the list.
Port was solid at the plate as he hit .341 with 6 homers this season. He also collected 7 doubles and 3 triples for Starr’s Mill. Sutton notched a .361 average with 5 homers and a .471 on-base percentage. Kinamon batted .323 with 15 RBIs and 29 runs scored. Bukowski had the best average as he batted .368 with 22 RBIs and a .457 on-base percentage.
1st Team Outfielders
The first-team outfielders showcased a unique blend of speed and power. Sandy Creek’s Markell Graham, Whitewater’s Thomas McKenzie, and McIntosh’s Mitch Maxwell are the choices.
Graham, an East Tennessee State commit, was a beast in the field and at the plate. He crushed pitchers as he batted .392 with 22 of his 29 hits going for extra bases. He also had 19 stolen bases. McKenzie was just as good—he hit .365 with 31 hits on the season. Maxwell batted .302 with four homers and 22 RBIs.
1st Team Designated Hitter
Starr’s Mill star Nathan Price earned top honors as the first-team designated hitter. He was dominating on the mound and at the plate. He batted .354 with three homers and a .416 on-base percentage. He split time at first base when not at DH or on the mound.
1st Team Two-Way Players
There is something special when a player can make an impact at the plate and on the mound. It’s a trend en vogue, and the county has some great players who do both. Whitewater’s Chase Townsend, Reid Kasten and Fayette County’s Ahmad Ali all make the list.
Townsend batted .300 with 21 RBIs this season. He also went 7-1 with a 1.01 ERA in 53 1/3 innings. Kasten showcased his power with a .333 average and 5 home runs and 32 RBIs. He also struck out 37 batters in 34 1/3 innings. Ali batted .360 with a pair of homers and 12 RBIs. When he wasn’t manning the hot corner, he had a 2.88 strikeouts per walks rate as Fayette’s workhorse on the mound.
All-County Second Team
Headlining the second team is a strong crop of talent. McIntosh catcher Ryan Sanders makes the team after he threw out 14 of 27 runners.
Sandy Creek’s Brian Siefert, Whitewater’s Justin Burdette, McIntosh’s Ethan Ange, and Fayette’s Zach Scott are the second-team infielders.
Siefert had a great sophomore season and batted .379 with 13 RBIs. Burdette hit .326 and had a .872 OPS. Ange batted .329 with 4 homers and 22 RBIs. Scott batted .304 with 10 RBIs and 4 doubles.
The second team outfield is represented by Starr’s Mill’s Jake Blinstrub, Whitewater’s Maddox Mueller, and McIntosh’s Andrew Pinckney.
Blinstrub batted .335 with 3 doubles and Mueller hit 2 homers and had 18 RBIs on the season. Pinckney was limited to 21 games, but he batted .377 with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
The second-team designated hitter is Whitewater’s Grayson Samples and the two-way player is Fayette’s Tucker Dorrity.
Samples batted .321 and batted .293 on the season. Dorrity hit .293 as an infielder and pitched some key innings out of the bullpen.
The second-team pitching rotation includes Whitewater’s Miles Langston, Fayette’s Jeremai Joseph, and McIntosh’s Burke Berry. Langston had 22 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched, Joseph had a 2.57 ERA, and Berry also was solid as a freshman, going 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA in 34 innings pitched.
All-County Honorable Mentions
There were also players that deserve Honorable Mention recognition for their contributions to the team. Whitewater’s Dylan Goodman, Dylan Morris, TJ Berry, Jackson Jenkins, and Dalton Goodman all make the honorable mention list. McIntosh right fielder Ty Butler makes the list, along with Our Lady of Mercy’s Jacob Bodkin and Deaglan Malally. Also on the list are Fayette County’s Davis Mokry, Andrew Hodges, Brandon Burns, and Tyler Patrick.
To see photos from baseball season, click here.