- Cullman, Alabama

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June 21, 2013

THE TIMES’ 2013 ALL-AREA BASEBALL TEAM: Cats’ Thompson leads brigade as Player of the Year

CULLMAN — When people look back on Keegan Thompson’s prep baseball career, it’s unlikely they’ll need much of an explanation as to just how good he was during his playing days at Cullman.

Like many elite athletes, Thompson shone brightest when ensconced in the spotlight. That fact became readily apparent throughout and at the conclusion of his senior campaign with the Black and Gold when the recent grad garnered a myriad of top state and national honors.

Chalk another one up on the big board, Mr. Thompson.

The former Bearcat will make his way to the Plains with one more accolade, as he’s the easy choice for Player of the Year on The Times’  2013 All-Area Baseball Team.

To say Thompson was stellar during his sendoff season would be, quite simply, an understatement.

The Auburn signee compiled a 9-2 record on the mound, while sporting a minuscule 1.25 earned run average in 72-2/3 innings of work. Over the course of 15 appearances, Thompson collected 124 strikeouts to go along with two saves and a shutout. He walked just eight batters and yielded a measly total of 13 earned runs.

In the final start of his prep career, Thompson hurled a complete-game, 16-strikeout gem against rival Hartselle to keep his team’s postseason hopes alive for another day.

When he wasn’t striking fear into opposing hitters, he was battering his counterparts at the plate. Thompson sported a robust .420 average with 63 hits, nine home runs, 45 RBIs, 35 runs, 19 doubles, a triple and four stolen bases. He was walked — many times intentionally — in almost 20 percent of his at-bats.

Brent Patterson left little doubt as to how much Thompson will be remembered — and missed — next season and beyond.

“I think back about his whole career, and there’s all sorts of stuff that just stands out to me,” the Cullman coach told The Times earlier this month. “It’s going to be a long time before we forget about that guy.”

Thompson’s season earned him the prestigious title of Mr. Baseball, as well as Class 5A Player and Pitcher of the Year. He was also named Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year and tabbed as a Louisville Slugger All-American. To top it all off, he also earned a nod on the Super All-State Team and a full ride to  play at Auburn University under new hire Sunny Golloway.

Although most attention was on Thompson, the Bearcats’ had another ace up their sleeve in lefty pitcher Jordan Guthrie.

The Snead State signee was every bit as good as his right-handed counterpart, tossing 81-2/3 innings with 99 punchouts to the tune of a 1.37 ERA. He finished 9-4 on the season.

His performance earned him a spot beside Thompson on the Louisville Slugger All-American Second Team, as well as an All-State honorable mention. Go ahead and add All-Area Pitcher of the Year, too.

Guthrie’s best start of the season may have also been his last, as the lanky left-hander grinded out seven scoreless innings in the Bearcats’ second-round playoff game against Hartselle before a shaky defensive effort did him in during extra innings.

One name opposing coaches won’t miss seeing on rosters next season is that of Luke Bailey, the 2013 All-Area Hitter of the Year.

Fairview’s tri-sport star didn’t disappoint during his final season on the diamond, leading the Aggies to an 18-11 season and the school’s first playoff appearance in recent years.

 Although Bailey made a handful of starts for the Purple and Gold, his main contributions came at the plate, as the All-State honorable mention slugged his way to a .443 batting average, to go along with 47 hits, 42 RBIs, 37 runs, 20 doubles, two triples, three home runs and six stolen bases. He struckout just eight times over 29 games.

Bailey’s skipper, Curt Alexander, was one of the major factors in getting the Aggies back on the winning track. Already the All-County Coach of the Year, he’s now pulling double-duty as the 2013 All-Area selection.

With a senior-laden club, Alexander was able to deal plenty of damage throughout the year, including a runner-up finish in the Cullman County Tournament, as well as being one of two county schools to earn a playoff berth — the other being Good Hope.

Wesley Waters (West Point), Nathan Doss (Good Hope), Hunter Townson (Holly Pond) and Levi Tyree (Addison) all graced the All-Area squad as pitchers.

Other members of the select team were Isaac Hardin, Hanceville; Rhett York, Addison; Keith Twitty, Hanceville; Duncan Hopper, Vinemont; Ross Bailey, Good Hope; Cole Collins, Cullman; Tate Duckett, West Point; Ty Jones, Vinemont; Trent Shoemaker, Fairview; Riley Foust, Vinemont; and Kaleb Estill, Addison.

See the rest of the honorary squad below.

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