Catoosa_walker_news The 2018 Walker County Baseball Player of the Year
Caleb Hopkins was already in the midst of a fine senior season for the Gordon Lee Trojans when senior catcher Dylan Minghini, the 2017 Walker County Baseball Player of the Year, went out with a knee injury just about a month into the season.
With the Trojans’ top power hitter on the shelf, it would be up to the rest of the Gordon Lee lineup to take up the slack if the program had designs on vying for a state championship.
Several players answered the call and Hopkins was right there at the top of the list to help shoulder a good deal of the load and help Gordon Lee bridge the gap for the rest of the regular season.
And although Minghini would make a triumphant and timely return just as the state playoffs were about to begin, Hopkins continued to step up for his team, both at the plate and on the mound.
His outstanding final season would conclude with the Trojans hoisting the Class 1A Public School championship trophy following a dominant 8-0 run through the postseason. And today, Hopkins is honored for his efforts as the 2018 Walker County Baseball Player of the Year.
“It feels pretty good,” he said with a big smile on his face. “I still think winning the state championship feels a little better, but it feels awesome though. It’s like the cherry on top of the cake.”
Hopkins finished the year as the Trojans’ leader in doubles (15) and RBIs (33) and scored 30 runs of his own. He tied Minghini for the team lead in homers with six and he was second on the team in hits (38), batting average (.358), on-base percentage (.493) and slugging percentage (.670).
On the mound, he emerged as a go-to guy in the deep Gordon Lee rotation. He finished with a 5-1 record and was tops among Trojan starters in fewest walks allowed (10). He finished the season with a 2.58 ERA and 35 strikeouts in just 38 innings of work.
However, Hopkins would up his game even more once May arrived.
In the state playoffs, he had one double, three homers and seven RBIs in eight postseason games. He also went 2-0 on the mound, allowing just four hits, striking out 13 batters and walking just two in 12 innings with a 0.00 ERA to help the Trojans win its first state championship since 1984 and its third state championship overall. Opposing batters hit just .095 against Hopkins in the state tournament.
“In March, I was swinging it okay but not that great,” recalled Hopkins, who ended up with first team All-State honors in the classification by Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine. “But when Dylan got hurt, everybody came together. We knew someone had to step up and I was able to step up and start swinging the bat.”
“When Dylan went down, we told the players that everybody else was going to have to try and step up and Caleb is one of the ones that did that,” Gordon Lee head coach Mike Dunfee said. “He had a great year. He’s a passionate kid who loves the game and he has fun playing it. I’m proud of him and I’m excited for his future.”
Dunfee said one of the biggest changes he saw in Hopkins this past season was an extra dose of confidence.
“His confidence level went through the roof when he was on the mound this year,” the coach continued. “His change-up has always been good, but he increased the velocity on his fastball a little bit, which made his offspeed stuff look even better. To me, when he went out there, he looked like he wanted to prove that he could do it. He had a great year.”
Gordon Lee’s Caleb Hopkins is this year’s Walker County Baseball Player of the Year. (Photo by Scott Herpst)