By Harrison Tarr
For the Observer
After closing a lack-luster campaign with a first round exit in the AHSAA playoffs in 2021, members of the Beauregard baseball program were out for vengeance in 2022. Coming into the season, head coach Seth Nolen’s Hornets wanted more than anything to redirect the attention of the rest of the state back to the blue and gold.
To say that this year’s squad achieved that goal is an understatement.
Beauregard is on pace to win 20 games by the end of the regular season and the team’s skipper believes that his group is only just getting started.
“We’ve been playing well here lately,” Nolen said. “We’ve been swinging it well and playing good defense; pitching has been outstanding all year. We’re playing pretty well.”
According to Nolen, the Hornets slow start in 2022 gave the group an idea of where to improve; his group has responded.
“We wanted to shore up some defense, get a little better at two-strike hitting and some approaches at the plate,” Nolen said. “We’ve done that. It’s paying off.”
As in all sports, the blue and gold faced adversity in the early going, forcing a group of younger athletes to step up in ways they might not have anticipated.
“Those guys have stepped up and done a tremendous job,” Nolen said. “We lost a catcher early, so Carter Dees has caught 22 of our 23 games. He’s not had rest but he’s been a warrior back there and stepped up and caught just about every inning.”
While they are remarkable, Dees’ effort behind the dish has not served as the only example of resiliency within the squad. Nolen’s pitching rotation has been an impressive spectacle.
“We lost two pitchers early in the year,” Nolen said. “We’ve had 11 guys throw at least two innings for us this year, or more. We’ve had young guys step up and throw an inning for us; it’s really been a whole team.”
With continual changes on the bump as a prime model for what has been an overall team effort throughout the season, the head coach noted that the group’s success has been built upon complete buy-in from top to bottom.
“There’s four seniors on this team and they’ve all done a pretty good job,” Nolen said. “But — once again — it’s kind of everybody. Here the last 10 or 12 games or so, the dugout has been awesome, the guys on the field feed off that energy and when somebody’s number is called, they’re ready to go.”
Having four seniors who are hungry for a state championship certainly hasn’t hurt the cause.
“The seniors — Ethan Palmer, Ethan Pooler, Zander Baird and Will Ledbetter — those guys have kind of been the catalyst for the leaders,” Nolen said.
The blue and gold will rely upon the senior leadership — and team accountability as a whole — as the group fights to earn their bid in the state playoffs.
“We’ve got a big series with Tallassee this week,” Nolen said. “If we can win one of the first two, we’re in the playoffs.”
If the Hornets are able to clinch a playoff berth this week, the group will square off with a familiar opponent in the first round of the AHSAA playoffs: the Bulldogs of Andalusia.
“We saw Andalusia earlier this year and we were not playing real good baseball at that time,” Nolen said. “They beat us 4-0 but — and no disrespect to Andalusia because they’re a solid baseball team — if we go play the way we’re capable of, we’ve got a good shot to go beat them.”
With the playoffs looming, the Hornets’ skipper made a point to mention the importance of playing not just for themselves but for their community.
“To do it with Beauregard on your chest and the B on your hat, it’s an honor,” Nolen said. “And we look at it that way. One of the things we talk about all the time is that — when you put on this uniform, when you put on that B — it’s not just you anymore.”
Beauregard will continue its bid for the playoffs — and a potential 20-win season — when it plays host to Tallassee for a double header on Friday, April 15 beginning at 4:30 p.m. CST.