Josh Hoyle

Corner head baseball coach Josh Hoyle walks back to the dugout during an area game in Kimberly. 

It’s no way to end a season and certainly no way to finish a career, but Corner head baseball coach Josh Hoyle is preaching positivity to his departing senior class.

On March 12, his Yellow Jackets capped off a Class 5A, Area 11 sweep with a 10-0 run-rule victory over Dora. The decisive win improved Corner to 14-1 on the season and was later followed by a five-spot climb in the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) rankings.

Little did they know, that would be the 2020 squad’s final game. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, schools were closed, bringing sports competition to a sudden halt.

“The night that we finished the Dora series it was kind of late and it was a school night, so I just told the kids, ‘Get your field jobs done, I love you, I’m proud of you, stay focused, get a good night’s rest and I’ll see you tomorrow,’” said Hoyle. “ And I didn’t see them tomorrow.

Since that Thursday night, now 22 days old, Hoyle has had no face-to-face interaction with his ball club, and that, for him, has been the hardest part.

“We have a group text, but the thing that you really miss are the practices and the away trips and the dugout and the human interaction,” said Hoyle. “I just hate it for these guys because there was really no closure.”

The regular season was nearly half empty, the Jackets were atop the area standings at 4-0 and a postseason bid was well in reach when COVID-19 shut off the lights. In the final ASWA poll of the season, Corner checked in at No. 2 in 5A behind top-ranked Shelby County (14-2).

“I felt like our chances were good to get in the playoffs. I felt like we had a chance to make a run at it,” said Hoyle.

Apparently some others agree, as the Yellow Jackets recently claimed a virtual state championship. Corner cleared Russellville by a vote of 58.9%-41.1% in the 5A state finals of the Prep Baseball Report (PBR) Alabama March Madness bracket—an interactive Twitter tournament for high school baseball fans. 

PBR launched the tournament last Monday, as 1-seed Corner marched past the likes of Scottsboro, Chilton County, Jasper and Russellville on its way to a people’s championship. Hoyle said he was a little hesitant to celebrate the virtual victories, remembering back to UCF’s self-proclaimed college football title in 2017, but eventually embraced the fun.

“It’s a cool thing that PBR is doing. It’s fun for the fans and the kids, and they’re getting publicity for what they do as well so I think it’s good for everybody,” said Hoyle

“It’s something that the community has kind of rallied behind and it’s a good thing.”

When the time is right, players and coaches will meet to celebrate a season cut short—a season full of possibilities.

“The last thing that I told them was, ‘You could have gone and done unbelievable things, but because of the circumstances, this team will probably go down and be talked about for longer than if you would have gone and accomplish all the goals that you had,’” said Hoyle.

“There’s something good that’s going to come from thins. I don’t know what it is, but we just have to keep faith that there’s a bigger picture and that this is bigger than us and that something is going to come of it that is good,” he continued.

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

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