Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

May 29, 2014

Twelve Wildcats selected to All-Region team

ELLAVILLE — The Schley County Wildcats had a huge season on the baseball diamond in 2014, and their dramatic run to the Region 4-A Championship was a complete team effort. Not surprisingly, when the Region 4-A All-Region team was recently announced, nearly every member of the Wildcats that started or received significant playing time saw their name on the list of the best players in a tough baseball region.

The Wildcats claimed their second straight region title in 2014 thanks in large part to Head Coach Chuck Cheek. Despite losing most of the pitching staff from his 2013 Region 4-A Champion squad, Cheek utilized a solid core of senior leaders and a talented group of underclassman to not only defend Schley County’s region title, but also improve their overall record against very tough competition.

This season, Schley County found themselves in a tough position at the end of the regular season. The Wildcats needed to defeat the top team in the region, Brookstone, in their final two games to win the region title. Cheek led his Wildcats to a big win at home before traveling to Brookstone and knocking off the Cougars to win the Region 4-A Championship. Schley County was the only team to defeat the Cougars in region play this year, and thanks to their three-game season sweep of Brookstone, Cheek was selected by the region coaches as the Coach of the Year for 2014.

This was no new honor for Cheek, whose 2014 selection was the second in a row for the Wildcats’ head man. His remarkable ability to plug several new pieces into his lineup and win the region title again made him an easy choice as Region 4 Coach of the Year. In his 10 years as the head coach at Schley, Cheek has compiled an exceptional 248-81 record, good for a .754 winning percentage. This season alone, Cheek led a young team to a 22-7 overall record and a number one ranking in the Class A Public power rankings, and there is little doubt that as long as he is calling the shots for Schley County they will always be in contention for the region and state title.

While Schley County has a long history of having a standout coach, the Wildcat baseball program is also known for having a standout ace pitcher. With the departure of 2013 Region 4-A Pitcher of the Year Justin Barnes, Cheek needed someone to step into that role this season. Sophomore Brett Usry was the obvious choice for that role, and after dominating his competition this season the young flame-thrower carried on that tradition by being selected as the Region 4-A Pitcher of the Year.

Usry is dynamic on the mound, and he boasts one of the best repertoires of pitches in the state. On top of Usry’s blazing fastball, the young Wildcat ace also possesses a devastating slider and a knee-buckling change-up. This season, Usry mowed through the region competition with his arsenal of dangerous pitches and collected a 6-1 overall record with a minuscule 0.94 ERA. Usry also totaled 71 strikeouts this year, cementing his place as the top pitcher in the region.

Another sophomore joined Usry as one of the top pitchers in the region this season, forming a potent one-two punch at the top of Schley County’s pitching rotation. Blake Howell gave Usry a challenge in his bid for Pitcher of the Year by going 5-1 and compiling a very impressive 1.47 ERA. Howell’s most impressive feat, however, was averaging more than one strikeout per inning with 52 K’s in just 44 innings pitched. Howell also earned the win in Schley County’s second playoff game against Trion, propelling his team to a dramatic first round victory to open the postseason. With Usry and Howell leading the way on the mound for the next two seasons, Schley County will undoubtedly be the favorites to repeat as region champs in the coming years.

Pitchers also need hitters to win ball games though, and the Wildcats were definitely not lacking in that department this season.

Schley County had a two-way battle this season for the top batting average on the team. Sophomore Michael Leeder ended up holding off freshman Clint Sellars in that battle with a .408 average to Sellars’ .398 average, and each player was named to the All-Region 4-A First Team thanks to their offensive prowess this season.

Leeder’s team-high batting average was not his only highlight at the plate this year. The Wildcat designated hitter also drove in 22 runners and tied for the team lead in runs scored with 25. Leeder smacked one double and one home run this season, and also saw time in the infield and on the pitcher’s mound for Schley County. Leeder’s most impressive performance on the mound came against Truetlen in the GHSA state quarterfinals, where he took over for Usry and kept the Wildcats in the game with six strong innings of work.

Sellars came into the season as one of the most anticipated freshman to ever don the silver and black. After hitting nearly .400 and crushing four homers, 10 doubles and driving in 28 runs, it is safe to say that the highly-touted newcomer lived up to the lofty expectations in his first year.

The Wildcat third baseman proved that he has the ability to be a game changer in the middle of the order for Cheek, and he will be heavily relied upon for the next three years. Earning First Team All-Region honors is a huge accomplishment for any player, but to be recognized as one of the best after just one year at the varsity level is a remarkable accomplishment.

Schley County also had a trio of seniors earn First Team All-Region honors for their exceptional play this season. A pair of outfield speedsters, Matt Corbin and Logan Scofield, joined first baseman Ryan Ragsdale on the First Team thanks to a strong stat line at the plate and hustle in the field.

Ragsdale has been one of the most feared hitters in the lineup for Schley County over the past two seasons, and he did not slow down at all during his senior campaign. On top of hitting .310, Ragsdale led the Wildcats in home runs with six and RBIs with 33. Ragsdale also sent nine doubles into the outfield and provided a wall with his defense at first base. This season, Ragsdale began his year hot with a grand slam in Schley’s season-opening upset win over AAAA Perry, and ended his season on a roll by crushing a three-run homer against Truetlen in the final series of the year.

Corbin and Scofield were two Wildcats that opposing pitchers never wanted to allow on base because of their dangerous speed. Retiring the two outfielders was no easy task though, and at the end of the year Corbin finished with a .344 batting average with Scofield just behind him with a .312 average. Corbin hit one home run and drove in 22 RBIs, and Scofield scored 25 runs to lead all Wildcats.

Together, Schley’s senior duo stole 33 bases with Corbin swiping 19 bags and Scofield collecting 14 steals. The most dramatic steal came in the bottom of the seventh inning in game three against Trion in Schley’s playoff opener. Corbin broke for home and just beat the tag to end the game with a rare walk-off steal of home. Corbin’s memorable steal sent the Wildcats into the second round of the playoffs.

On top of their seven first team members, Schley County also had two team members selected to the All-Region 4-A Second Team. A pair of middle infielders, senior Chris Barker and freshman Chase Patrick, rode their dynamic play on defense to the second team selection. Barker boasted an impressive .988 fielding percentage this season and made many memorable highlight-worthy plays in the field, and Patrick was a vacuum at short and hit .278 with four doubles and 10 RBIs at the plate.

Junior catcher Knox Theus and sophomore outfielder Josh Hutchens also landed on the honorable mention list for Region 4-A this season. The two Wildcats will return next season to help lead Schley County into the 2015 season with high expectations after great performances this season.

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