St. James coach Keith Lucky wondered about pitching and hitting, but he thought his Trojans were solid defensively as the 2021 baseball season opened.
As the season progressed, he would learn defense might be his team’s biggest question mark. But he never worried about senior shortstop Carson Howard.
“I want the ball hit to shortstop,” Lucky said. “I know he’s going to make a play on it. He’s special, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a pure shortstop.”
In a season where few individuals or teams separated from the rest of the field, Howard was the choice of the Capital City Conference coaches to be the player of the year. Howard, who signed in November with North Alabama, batted .396 this season and compiled a 1.25 earned run average as the Trojans’ ace.
“Every category, he was either one or two in, as far as batting averages, RBIs, everything offensively as well as on the mound,” Lucky said. “You can’t replace him. I’ve been fortunate to have him since he’s been in the eighth grade and he’s going to be missed. He loves baseball -- that’s all he does and all he wants to do -- so I’m glad he gets the opportunity to play at North Alabama.”
Howard started out his career as as a second baseman while Tyler Robertson was at shortstop and then moved into the shortstop position when Robertson, now at Louisiana-Lafayette, graduated.
“He’s very athletic and has a great arm,” Lucky said. “Sometimes, his arm is so great, he doesn’t use his body like he should. He’s got great range, is very aggressive to the ball and makes plays. That’s what he’s done ever since he’s been with me.”
Ken Whittle was selected as the Capital City Conference coach of the year. Whittle, who retired after 43 years, took a team that struggled early in the season to win just two of its first eight games and rebounded late with a 13-game winning streak to win the area championship and advance to the second round of the 3A state playoffs.
Every CCC team’s shortstop was represented on the all-Capital City Conference baseball team. Montgomery Academy shortstop Britton Kohn was included as a pitcher, Alabama Christian’s Zac Westbrook was listed as a utility player for his dual role as a pitcher and Trinity’s Parker Hughes was included as the designated hitter.
Catholic’s Dean Johnson, the ace of the Knights’ staff, started the season at third base -- where he is included on the all-CCC team -- before moving to shortstop midway through the season to solidify the Knights’ defense.
Trinity led the way with five players on the 13-man squad, followed by St. James with three, Alabama Christian with two, Catholic with two and Montgomery Academy with one.
Howard and Westbrook have made the first team in each of the last three years. Six of the players on the first team this year -- Ashe, Beard, Easterling, Johnson, Kohn and Roberson -- were honorable mention selections in 2020.
2021 CAPITAL CITY CONFERENCE BASEBALL TEAM
OF -- Justin Rose, So., Catholic
OF -- William Roberson, Sr., Trinity
OF -- Zac Russell, Sr., St. James
1B -- Walton Cherry, Sr., Trinity
2B -- Ethan Beard, So., St. James
SS -- Carson Howard, Sr., St. James
3B -- Dean Johnson, Sr., Catholic
C -- Grayson Ashe, Jr., Trinity
DH -- Parker Hughes, Sr., Trinity
Utility -- Zac Westbrook, Sr., Alabama Christian
P-- Britton Kohn, Sr., Montgomery Academy
P -- Ben Easterling, Jr., Trinity
P -- Isaac Warrick, Jr., Alabama Christian
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Carson Howard, St. James
COACH OF THE YEAR: Ken Whittle, Trinity
Honorable mention: Brandon Bice, 2B, Sr., Alabama Christian; Jalen Clark, OF, Sr., Alabama Christian; Austin Cleghorn, 2B-OF, Sr., Catholic; Parker Cook, C, Fr., Montgomery Academy; Coleman Ellis, P-2B, Sr., Trinity; Jeffrey Ford, OF, Sr., St. James; Owen McNeal, C, Fr., St. James; Hudson Parrish, C, So., Catholic; Mason Prestage, 3B, Sr., Alabama Christian.