Three hometown heroes recently collected some impressive honors. Baseball standout Jordan Patterson was selected for a minor league baseball all-star team, while prep stars Sean Collins and Lacey Sumerlin have been named among the state’s top athletes.
● USA didn’t have to look far to sign one of the nation’s best high school track athletes. The Jaguars only had to drive down Old Shell Road to McGill-Toolen Catholic High School to find Sean Collins.
The 2014-15 Gatorade Alabama Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year will bring his high-flying act to USA after signing a scholarship. The statewide honor not only recognizes his athletic excellence, but also his academic achievements (3.66 GPA). He has volunteered on behalf of St. Mary’s Home, which assists children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound Collins is now eligible for the national Gatorade award. He stands a good chance, thanks to his 17-foot, 3.25-inch effort in April at the Mobile Challenge of Champions. This was a state record and the fifth best in the United States. Collins recorded a 17-foot vault in May to win the Class 7A state title.
The pole vault is not his only event. At the state meet, he compiled 6,103 points to finish second in the decathlon. He was just 57 points behind teammate Chris Taylor, who has also signed with USA.
During the indoor season, Collins reached a height of 16 feet, 6.5 inches, the seventh-best in the nation. He also won the state indoor title in February.
“Sean is an outstanding competitor,” USA track coach Paul Brueske said. “He’s a local guy. I’ve known the family for many years; and his brother, Charles, is a junior javelin thrower for us. We’re real excited about having him stay in town and help us win a Sun Belt Conference championship.
“We believe Sean can help us continue to grow as a program, and that having him on the team is going to help us attract more top-flight student-athletes, which will allow us to build the program into a perpetual contender every year for a conference title,” Brueske added.
● Lacey Sumerlin led Baker to the Class 7A state girls softball title and a 50-6-1 record last season, earning the 2014-15 Gatorade Alabama Softball Player of the Year honor.
The 5-foot-11 shortstop and right-handed pitcher was a team leader for the Honeybees. She compiled a .435 batting average, with 12 home runs and 68 runs batted in. On the mound, she was 22-1 with a 1.35 earned run average. A first-team all-state selection and the Coastal Alabama Player of the Year, she picked up 16 doubles, five triples, 30 stolen bases and 71 runs scored.
In the classroom, Sumerlin maintained a 3.89 GPA. She volunteers locally on behalf of nursing home and youth sports programs.
“Sumerlin is a phenomenal athlete,” said Brenda Box, head coach at Mary G. Montgomery High School. “Her offensive stats speak for themselves, and at shortstop she is extremely quick and has a great arm. She started pitching as a senior and became a powerhouse there, too.”
Sumerlin will carry her skills into the Southeastern Conference next year, having signed a scholarship with the University of Georgia.
● Local sports fans have followed Patterson’s career for quite some time. He lettered four seasons in baseball, basketball and football with the Baker Hornets.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound slugger stayed close to home to play for the University of South Alabama (USA). He continued to shine for the Jaguars as the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2013, and went on to be a Colorado fourth-round draft pick.
Patterson just finished the first half of this season with the Modesto Nuts, the Class Advanced A affiliate of the Rockies. He leads the California League in triples (10), is fourth in slugging percentage (.568), fifth in batting average (.314), plus sixth in runs scored (48), doubles (20) and on-base percentage (.387).
Patterson was named Player of the Month in the South Atlantic League last season as a member of the Asheville Tourists. He was promoted to Modesto before the start of this year.
Read an extended interview with Patterson in this week’s feature by Tommy Hicks.
● USA has announced it will play a football team from the Pac 12 Conference for the first time. The Jaguars will travel to the historic Rose Bowl stadium to play UCLA on Sept. 17, 2022.
This will be the fourth California school USA has faced. The Jags played UC-Davis in 2010 and Cal Poly in 2011, and will face San Diego State the next two seasons.
Head coach Joey Jones continues to take on teams from power conferences. USA has already played Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina State. They will travel to Nebraska on Sept. 12, and have future dates with Oklahoma State, LSU and Ole Miss.
● There have been several staff changes at local colleges.
Matt Luther has been named the women’s golf coach at USA. He has spent the last two seasons as assistant coach at Oklahoma, which included a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. A former club professional, he was head coach of the men’s and women’s teams at St. Thomas College in Texas.
Spring Hill College has announced two administrative staff changes. Craig Kennedy has been hired full-time as Compliance Coordinator while Badger softball head coach Alison Sellers-Cook has been promoted to assistant athletic director/senior woman administrator.
After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant on the USA soccer program, Jo Chubb has been promoted to assistant coach for the 2015 seasons. A former North Alabama star, Chubb helped guide the last two Sun Belt Conference freshmen and offensive players of the year.