Ca­toosa_walk­er_news The 2018 Walker County Base­ball Player of the Year

Walker County Messenger - - Sports - By Scott Herpst

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)

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