Capital City Conference scholarship signees

By TIM GAYLE

ACA’s Mario Galloway (signing) with coaches and family signs a baseball scholarship to Coastal Alabama College.

Alabama Christian Academy senior MJ Galloway had a couple of four-year offers he was considering, but the baseball standout said he wanted to keep his Division I-A offers open by signing with a junior college.

Last Thursday morning, Galloway signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Coastal Alabama Community College in Bay Minette next season.

“I wanted to go the juco route so I could work hard and get D-I offers after that,” he explained. “I just want to work hard and see how far I can go and how good I can be. Just give it my best to make it happen.”

Galloway is among the top players in the area at the plate, at shortstop and on the mound after starting for three years and playing since the eighth grade on the ACA varsity.

“Thinking about MJ and his athletic ability, his work ethic is impeccable and he’s a team leader,” ACA coach Don Gilliam said. “MJ is a better person than an athlete. That’s what made him a great athlete. And being able to come here and play for us and then sign with Coastal Alabama speaks volumes, humbly, about our program here. For us to have a part in the development of MJ Galloway has been a true blessing for our ACA community. MJ has left a legacy for younger players to follow. That legacy is you come early, you stay late and you’re never, never satisfied with what you did today.”

“He may also see time on the hill as a closer,” Gilliam said. “After Coach Larker first saw MJ, it was a matter of days before he called me and said I want this guy in our program.”

Galloway, meanwhile, said he is open to playing either as a middle infielder or as a pitcher, depending on how he can best help the team.

“He told me to see which one I was better at when I went up there, so I don’t really know yet,” Galloway said.

 

ACA’s Darcy Sanford (middle) with parents signs a track scholarship with Harding University.

Alabama Christian’s  Darcy Sanford always had a connection with Harding University, but it wasn’t until recently the senior decided she wanted to attend college at the Arkansas Division II school.

Sanford’s brother Dirk, an all-star quarterback for his father’s team at Woodlands Christian School, had accepted a scholarship to play football at Harding and when Dirk’s younger sister visited the place, she fell in love with the school all over again. Her grandfather had played football there and her great grandfather John Prock is the school’s winningest football coach after coaching the football program from 1964-87.

“I never really saw myself going to Harding,” she said. “I knew that too well, it just seemed too comfortable. Then I got extremely excited as it all fell into place. Seeing my brother play football there last year got me really excited. The Lord just worked His way and here I am.”

Dirk is now a walk-on linebacker at Texas A&M but that didn’t deter Darcy from signing a letter of intent on Thursday morning to attend the university and run the heptathlon for veteran coach Steve Guymon next season.

“She’s just a tremendous human being, above being just a talented athlete,” said ACA track coach Bill Moore, who hired Darcy’s father Nate this past year, forcing Darcy to move from Woodlands, Texas to Montgomery. “This is something she’s worked really hard for. She came in to a new situation, new school, new environment and dove right in head first.”

Sanford is among the state’s top performers in the shot put, discus, hurdles and high jumps, preparing her for a collegiate career in the heptathlon, which counts seven events – 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and 800-meter run.

 

MA’s Garrett Sanderson (second from right) with family signs to play basketball at Harding University.

Montgomery Academy senior Garrett Sanderson thought about his academics first, then accepted a scholarship offer to Harding University to continue his basketball career.

Sanderson was the leading scorer for the Eagles this past season and a member of the Montgomery Independent’s All-Capital City Conference team selected by the coaches. He considered several programs, including the one his father coaches at Faulkner University, before selecting the Division II Arkansas school.

“I actually had a couple more schools I was looking at,” he said. “I looked at Westmont (College), out in California, I looked at Sewanee and of course my dad would have wanted me to come play for him but those schools didn’t have the engineering degree that I want. Then Harding came along with a scholarship and an engineering school that has some weight to it, so I decided to go there.”

Sanderson said the school’s reputation placed it high on his parents’ wish list, which led to an offseason workout to earn a scholarship offer.

“My parents really wanted me to go to school there,” he said. “They really liked the atmosphere. We had a buddy, who is an assistant girls’ coach at Faulkner now, who called them and said, ‘Hey, the coach’s son here is doing well. You should have a look at him.’ They weren’t able to make it down during the season but they actually came down out of season. I played with my dad’s team, played some pickup, and they liked what they saw. They asked me to come and visit. I got a chance to play with their guys some, got to hang out with them and it was a good fit.”

Sanderson, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, is one of five signees at Harding this year. Veteran coach Jeff Morgan, who will be entering his 25th season next year, has to replace two seniors on a team that finished 14-13 in 2017.

“Playing with those guys shows a lot about where you are going to stand with that,” he said. “Leaving there, I felt I could contribute right away. Hopefully I can get out there and possibly help next year.”

ACA disposes of Trojans, looks to Trinity

 

 

ACA’s Dillon Hutchinson has teammates congratulae him after a home run in the second game of the series. Photo: Drew Gayle

 

By TIM GAYLE

It’s not always the same person and not always the same situation, which makes Alabama Christian’s 4-0 start in area play not only surprising but satisfying to head coach Don Gilliam

“It’s somebody different every day coming through, which is a good sign,” Gilliam said. “We keep preaching the little bitty things – it’s the bunt to get the runner over, when you get a guy on third it’s hitting the ball the other way. Because baseball turns on a dime.”

On Friday afternoon, baseball turned on a 3-1 pitch that Dillon Hutchinson sent sailing over the left field fence, wiping out a 2-0 St. James lead with a game-tying blast. Hutchinson also delivered the game winner, a sacrifice fly in the sixth to break the 2-2 tie and propel the Eagles to a 5-2 victory at the AUM summer league complex.

In the 4A Area 4 standings, Alabama Christian is on top at 4-0 after sweeping Catholic and St. James with a series remaining against Trinity on April 6-7 and with LAMP on April 14. Trinity is 3-1 with ACA next and St. James on April 13-14. LAMP is in third at 2-2 with Catholic on April 6-7 and ACA on April 13-14.

While St. James (2-4) isn’t eliminated from playoff contention, the Trojans would need a lot of luck to reach the postseason. They would have to sweep Trinity on April 13-14 (and probably win the tiebreaker as well), while both LAMP and Trinity would have to lose at least three of their remaining four area games.

Catholic (1-5) is eliminated from playoff consideration.

For ACA (10-10), it’s a surprising run after starting the season 1-6. Although the last two area series will be the toughest and the Eagles could find themselves sitting at home when the playoffs start, their resilience and confidence make them a hard out, which is what Gilliam hoped he would see entering the final month of the regular season. “I kept telling our guys, keep grinding, the difficult schedule won’t do anything but make us better,” he said. “When we get in tough situations, we will have been there. I just believe our difficult schedule has helped us in difficult times. We started off the year with five new starters and it just took us a while.”

Saint James Carson Howard leaps to take a throw as an ACA runner slides into second base.
Photo: Drew Gayle

ACA won Thursday’s series opener 4-2 as MJ Galloway surrendered just four hits in going the distance and struck out seven. Hutchinson supplied the game-winning hit in that contest as well as his two-out, two-run double in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie. That made Friday’s game a do-or-die situation for the Trojans in the playoff race and they jumped on ACA start Grayson Evans with a pair of hits in the second and consecutive doubles by Teddy Bridges, Matthew Robinson and Brady Greene in the third that gave St. James a 2-0 lead. But Hutchinson answered in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game and Evans settled down after that, allowing just two singles over the final four innings and recording his 11th strikeout, getting Josh Garnett on three pitches, to end the game.

“Our pitchers have been in the tough situations,” Gilliam said. “In the 1-6 start, the same guys on the mound now are the same guys that were pitching then. He was solid today. He threw one pitch at a time and whatever happened on that pitch, that pitch is gone, focus on the next pitch. Grayson threw us a gem tonight. He pitched with a lot of guts.”

ACA loaded the bases with one out in the fifth and Evans followed with a fly ball to right, but Hutchinson was slow to tag at third so Gilliam held him. Dusty Young followed with a groundout and the Trojans squandered a golden opportunity to score runs. “It’s the little bitty things like a line drive fly ball, I tell our guys to come back and tag automatically and sometimes they find themselves (too far away) because they’re so eager,” Gilliam said. “Or we don’t get the bunt down. Or bunt it right back to the pitcher. That can cost you in really big games. So, yes, we feel really blessed to be 4-0 in the area.”

Blessed because, in an area race where things have been falling into place, the Trojans would give themselves the same opportunity in the sixth and deliver, with Hutchinson driving in John Thompson with a sacrifice fly and Galloway driving a two-run single up the middle two batters later. Matthew Robinson went 3 for 4 for the Trojans.

In the second game, which didn’t count in the area standings, Russell Olsey drove in the winning run in the top of the 10th and Mitchell Madore picked up the win on the mound in a 5-4 victory by the Trojans.