Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

June 12, 2014

Nine Southland baseball players land on All-Region Team, Gleeson and Dillard voted All-State

AMERICUS — The Southland Academy Raiders recently completed one of their best baseball seasons in recent memory by taking second place in their region and advancing to the Final Four in the GISA Class AAA State Playoffs. Leading the way for Southland’s strong finish were two All-State players, nine All-Region players, and one senior captain.

On a team full of high-level performers, a sophomore rose to the top of the postseason voting for the Raiders. Reed Dillard, who was equally as impressive on the mound as he was in the batter’s box, collected unbelievable statistics in both phases of the game to earn a GISA Class AAA All-State team selection. The left handed hitter and right handed pitcher led the Raiders in several categories on offense and defense, cementing himself among the most dynamic players in the state in 2014.

Among Dillard’s highlights at the plate this season were leading the team in batting average with a .403 mark, on base percentage with a .568 total, and doubles with six. Dillard also had a team-high 27 hits, and he finished second on the team with 14 RBIs and 20 runs scored. The sophomore also posted the team’s lowest ERA  on the mound with a 2.02, and he led the team with a 1.36 WHIP and 60.33 innings pitched. In those 60 innings, the Southland ace struck out 50 batters and walked only 19.

According to Southland head coach John Brady, Dillard put his team in a position to win each time he took the mound this season.

“Reed was our number one pitcher, and he gave us a chance to win each time out,” he said. “He hit third in our order all year and was our most consistent batter.”

Dillard was not the only Southland player that was selected to the All-State team, however. Thanks to a strong season at the plate and behind it, senior catcher Allen Gleeson also earned that honor by catching the eye of Class AAA coaches across the state.

Gleeson was the total package for the Raiders during his senior season in the Black and Gold. As a catcher, he provided an agile backstop that saved many runs from scoring from third base with his quick blocking ability. Gleeson also kept potential base stealers on first and second with his powerful arm that threw out runner after runner over the season.

As good as Gleeson was behind the dish, the senior was even better when he came up to the plate on offense. Southland’s veteran clean-up hitter finished second only to Dillard on the team with a .368 batting average and a .557 on base percentage. He was also second on the team with five doubles, and he his speed allowed him to lead all Raiders with 25 runs scored. Glesson hit one huge insurance home run against Loganville in the Elite Eight round of the state playoffs, and he drove in 12 runners this season.

“Allen had a great year at the plate and behind it,” Brady said. “He is probably the best throwing catcher in the state, and he controlled the running game. He grew into a good leader for us.”

Dillard and Gleeson were also selected to the All-Region 3-AAA team, as were two other junior and senior Raider players.

Ford Roach has been one of Southland’s most consistent players over the past three years, so it was not surprise to Brady when he saw his senior first baseman’s name on the 2014 All-Region team. This season, Roach got a hit every three trips to the plate to collect a .333 batting average. The senior also finished third on the team with 12 RBIs, and gave Southland’s infielders and big target at first base throughout the year.

“Ford had another good year at the plate,” Brady said. “Has been very steady for us for three years. I am proud that he and Allen made the All-Region team after being honorable mentions last year.”

Another senior that went out on a high note with an All-Region selection was outfielder Jon Adkins. Along with a strong season at the plate that included batting .311 with 19 hits and driving eight runs, Adkins also made a strong contribution on defense for the Raiders. Adkins made several ESPN-worthy catches to rob opposing batters, and Brady said that the region coaches were clearly impressed by his game-changing defensive efforts.

“Jon played an outstanding center field for us and was a leader on and off the field,” he said. “He earned the respect of the coaches in our region because of his defense, and that is probably the reason he was selected to the All-Region team as much as anything else.”

Gleeson, Roach, and Adkins will be hard pieces to replace next season, as will senior co-captian Adam Shutters. The 2015 Raiders will still have a strong core of talent returning though, including two more juniors that were selected to the All-Region team this season.

As one of the most powerful hitters in the state, Hunter Weldon will be one player that Brady will lean heavily on as a senior next season. This year, Weldon led the Raiders in home runs with six and RBIs with 21. Weldon isn’t just a power hitter though, a fact that is obvious when you look at his impressive .357 batting average. Weldon had several big games for Southland this season, and in their final series of the year against Tattnall he collected three of the Raiders six total hits in the series.

“Hunter has developed into a good hitter for us,” Brady said. “He really improved on his plate discipline this year and it paid off.”

Another Raider with tremendous plate discipline was the sixth Southland player selected to the All-Region team this season. Ryan Weaver, who is the complete package on the diamond, became an All-Region player after batting .362 and finishing third on the team in batting average. Weaver was also third on the team in runs scored with 14, and he led the team in stolen bases with eight. Much like Adkins, Weaver also boasted one of the best defensive skill sets on the team this season for the Raiders at second base, according to his coach.

“Ryan only made two errors (that I can recall) all year at second base,” he said. “He is absolutely one of the best infielders we saw this year. He was also very much improved at the plate from his sophomore year.”

The good news didn’t stop there for Southland. With three other team members selected as honorable mention All-Region players, nearly every Raider starter earned some form of postseason recognition.

Geoffrey McDonald, Brandon Looney, and Cason Fort were picked as honorable mention team members. McDonald, Southland’s number two pitcher, collected 37 strikeouts in 21.33 regular season innings and a 1.59 WHIP.

“Geoffrey had a good year on the mound for us,” Brady said. “He really pitched well even through a shoulder strain toward the end of the season. We’re looking forward to a great senior year from him next year.”

Looney posted an impressive on base percentage over .500 this season for the Raiders and played tremendous defense at shortstop. As for Fort, he hit .302 with arguably his biggest hit coming as a game-tying, two-RBI single against Deerfield-Windsor in the bottom of the seventh inning during the regular season.

“Brandon played short for us and had a great season defensively. He really turned it on in the post season, and also had a great year on the mound for us,” Brady said.

“Cason also really came into his own this year,” he added. “He had some big hits for us and played good in the outfield all year.”

Brady said that three of his players were no-brainer All-Region players, and each of the rest of his starters were also very well-qualified for the honor.

“This year was a strange year for us in that I think we had three guys that were gimmes and I think you could make a legitimate argument for all of our other starters to make the All-Region team,” he said. “The parity in our lineup was unlike any team I have ever coached. That is what made us so good this year though; depth and contributions from all over the place. It is nice to have all these guys be recognized and appreciated by the coaches in the region.”

Gleeson, Roach, and Adkins also brought Southland a lot of recognition by being selected to play in the GISA Senior All-Star Game. That game took place last weekend at Mercer University, allowing the three Raiders one last opportunity to represent their school.


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