P.J. Sipsey Valley’s Guy top coach in Class 3A; Knights’ Austin Menard named Class 2A Pitcher of the Year

Tuscaloosa Academy’s Austin Menard was voted the AISA Class AAA Pitcher of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Menard had a 9-2 record and a 1.35 ERA to help the Knights advance to the Class AAA semifinals. (Photo by File photo )

Back in 2011, the first year of the program, coach P.J. Guy and his Sipsey Valley baseball players had to travel about 15 miles for home games.

Three years later, the Bears won a semifinal series at their on-campus facility and headed to Montgomery to compete for an AHSAA championship. Sipsey Valley finished as the runner-up to Madison Academy, which swept the series with a couple of 3-2 victories, but Guy was voted the Class 3A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

Sipsey Valley won an area title for the third year in a row, advanced past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in the program’s four-year history and set a school record for single-season wins with a 36-19 record.

“It’s very flattering to get it, but it’s a credit to the players,” Guy said. “Coaches don’t win games. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s also true. Like I’ve said many times, I’ve just been blessed for the last four years to have a group of kids that I started out with when they were at an early age to just kind of buy in and believe in me and the things I thought we could accomplish as a group together. Getting something like this is great, but it’s a compliment to my boys and my team. It’s just another great thing for Sipsey Valley baseball.”

Guy plans to start up another program. He is leaving Sipsey Valley to coach at the new Helena High School, which opens in August. The Helena Huskies will compete in Class 5A.

“Obviously, this was probably the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my young career,” Guy said. “Leaving Sipsey is something that was not easy to do, but I’ve been telling people it’s time for me to close the book on one and start a new chapter. I’m just thankful for all the support and the relationships I had at Sipsey, not only with players but with parents, the administration and faculty and everybody in the community.

“I just feel like it’s a move for my family. My wife and I moved into the area a couple of months ago, so you make moves like this when you put your family first. I’m putting my family first here. It’s a good day and bad day. I’m sad to leave Sipsey, but I’m very excited about the new challenge ahead for me.”

Guy played football and baseball at Holt High School before graduating in 2000. He played college baseball at Wallace State of Hanceville and at Auburn University at Montgomery. He coached football and baseball at the old Lloyd Wood Middle School and got to know some of the athletes who established the program at Sipsey Valley. The Bears, who made four straight playoff appearances and won three area titles, went 15-16 in 2011, 22-15 in 2012 and 25-13 in 2013.

“It was a very easy transition for me,” Guy said. “When we got started in 2011, all the kids had already played for me for two or three years. It was like we never really stopped. We just put on a different colored uniform.

“I’m going into a different territory where I don’t know anybody. It’s going to be interesting and a challenge every day to meet new people and get out in the community and just go to work. I’m just going to try to do my job to the best of my ability and see what happens. I’m looking for high-character guys that will come in and put in the work and commitment to try to become a better player and better person every day. If we do that, the baseball part will come eventually. If you get the right group and they believe, good things will happen.”

Nate Harcrow, one of Guy’s players, made the Class 3A All-State team along with American Christian Academy senior Dalton Reach and junior J.T. Hyche.

Sipsey Valley and ACA met in the semifinal round, with the Bears winning the third game 9-6.

Harcrow, a senior outfielder, led the Bears with a .375 batting average and had 40 RBIs, 13 doubles and three home runs. He scored 39 runs.

Reach, a second baseman, hit .393 with 32 runs, 52 RBIs, 16 doubles and four homers. Hyche, picked as an outfielder, hit .460 with 44 runs scored, 37 RBIs and 24 steals.

Tuscaloosa Academy senior Austin Menard made the AISA All-State team for the second straight year and was voted Pitcher of the Year.

Menard had a 9-2 record and a 1.35 ERA to help the Knights advance to the Class AAA semifinals. He recorded 83 strikeouts in 772⁄3 innings. He threw two shutouts and had a no-hitter in a win over Marengo Academy.

Menard had a streak of 21 straight winning decisions in his career at Tuscaloosa Academy.

Tuscaloosa Academy senior Robey Smalley made the AISA team as a first baseman. Smalley hit .391 and led the Knights with 37 RBIs. He had nine doubles and a home run and scored 25 runs.

Junior Kyle Friday, who helped Marengo Academy reach the Class A championship series, was chosen as a designated hitter. Friday, a shortstop and pitcher, had a .404 average with 42 RBIs and seven home runs. He scored 35 runs and had a 4-2 pitching record with one save. Friday was named to the Class A All-Tournament team.

Seniors Keith Holcombe and Lee Clark represented Hillcrest on the Class 6A team. Holcombe, a center fielder and pitcher, was chosen as an outfielder. Clark was chosen as a second baseman.

Holcombe hit .467, scored 55 runs and stole 31 bases. He also had an 8-2 pitching record. Clark, a .404 hitter, scored 47 runs and drove in 56. He had a 1-0 pitching record. Hillcrest advanced to the Class 6A semifinals.

Demopolis senior Tyler Oates made the Class 5A team as a third baseman. Oates hit .395 with 25 RBIs.

In Class 2A, Hale County sophomore Deacon Medders made the team as an outfielder. A leadoff batter, Medders hit .477, scored 43 runs and drove in 28. He had a 2-4 pitching record. Hale County reached the third round of the playoffs before losing to eventual Class 2A champion Houston Academy.

Berry senior Weston Bonner made the Class 1A team as a pitcher. Bonner, who will play for Wallace State of Hanceville, had a 6-2 record with two saves and a 1.20 ERA. He recorded 120 strikeouts in 60 innings and had two shutouts and one no-hitter. He struck out 19 in a game against Marion County. Bonner, an infielder, hit .630 with 36 RBIs, 28 runs scored and 11 doubles.

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.