Cullman High’s baseball team won the most games any team in the state of Alabama has ever won in a single season with a grand total of 48.

The Bearcats proved to be one of the elite teams in the state once again as they dominated Class 5A and rolled through the 6A teams on that were on their schedule.

The ’07 Bearcats then solidified their place in history by blowing through the playoffs to claim the Class 5A state championship.

And one of the main reasons for Cullman’s success this season was the play of Josh Rutledge.

He led the team with 12 home runs while maintaining a .453 batting average with 69 RBIs and 70 runs scored. And that was just what he did offensively.

Rutledge also played two crucial roles for the Bearcats defensively: One at shortstop and the other as a record-breaking closer.

At shortstop, Rutledge made the position look easy as simple as flipping a routine grounder to second base. Defensively, he finished the season with 66 putouts, 108 assists and a fielding percentage of .916.

When he was not playing shortstop, Rutledge was slamming the door in opponents’ faces as the Bearcats closer. He finished the season with a state record 13 saves with a 3-1 record. The Cullman senior held opposing batters to a mere .186 batting average, while posting a 1.89 ERA with 65 strikeouts while holding his opposing batters to an average of .186.

For being one of the most well-rounded players in the state, Rutledge has been named The Cullman Times Baseball Player of the Year.

“Josh is one of those players that does everything you ask him to as well as he can,” Cullman baseball coach Bryan Bowen said. “He can play any position on the field and be the best at that position.”

Rutledge is also a player who is not easily intimidated. Cullman played possibly the toughest schedule in the state, with trips to play ranked teams just about every week of the season. Even though the Cullman senior knew his team would be facing nothing but the best every game, he said it did not matter. Instead, Rutledge was more concerned about competing and winning baseball games.

“To me, it’s not that hard because any team can beat any other team on the right day,” Rutledge said. “When we play teams like the ones we do, it just gives us a chance to see what we’re made of.”

That is the attitude that has been instilled into not just Rutledge, but every player on the Bearcats’ roster.

That attitude is the driving force behind Cullman’s collective will to succeed and be the best, and it is embedded in Bowen more than anyone else associated with Cullman baseball.

Because of the constant drive to be the best, his teaching methods and the results that came from his efforts, Bowen has been named The Cullman Times Baseball Coach of the Year.

Even though Bowen is the face that leads one of the most successful baseball programs in the state, the coach is hesitant to take too much credit. Instead, Bowen gives that honor to the ones working in the trenches everyday: His assistant coaches.

“All the success that this program has seen with a state championship and appearances in the state finals, it’s because of the work the players and coaches do at the ninth grade and JV levels,” Bowen said. “That’s when we are able to work with them and make sure they are able to do the little things that good baseball teams do.”

all-area baseball

First Team

Drew Bryson, Cullman, P, So.

Taylor Baker, Holly Pond, P, Jr.

Colton Alston, Addison, P, Jr.

John Nyquist, Cullman, IF, Sr.

Kyle Johnson, Vinemont, IF, Jr.

Jake Gilliland, Addison, IF, Sr.

Clay Holcombe, Holly Pond, 3B, Jr.

Matt Collins, Vinemont, 1B, Sr.

Chris Cain, Cullman, C, Sr.

Blake Huddleston, Cullman, OF, Sr.

Blake Turner, Addison, OF, Sr.

Matt Drake, Cullman, OF, Jr.

Josh Rutledge, Cullman, Util., Sr.

Andrew Privett, Addison, DH, Jr.

Second Team

Joey Pace, Vinemont, P, Jr.

Gregory Smith, Fairview, P, Fr.

Derek Basinger, West Point, P, So.

Kyle Smith, Good Hope, IF, So.

Ross Henderson, Holly Pond, IF, Jr.

Seth White, Hanceville, IF, Sr.

Patrick Britton, Cullman, 3B, Sr.

Austin Golden, Cullman, 1B, So.

Heath Hyde, Holly Pond, C, Jr.

Colton Stricklin, Cold Springs, OF, Sr.

Luke Davis, Fairview, OF, Fr.

Jaime Epperly, Good Hope, OF, Sr.

Joey Hawkins, Holly Pond, Util., Jr.

Josh Huddleston, Cullman, DH, Sr.

The All-Area baseball team was compiled by the members of the Times sports staff based on information gathered during the season.

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