ALL-STATE BASEBALL: Cullman’s Patterson named 6A Coach of the Year, 6 local players earn all-state honors

Cullman's Brent Patterson and Cooper Beck along with West Point's Aubry Cleghorn and Hunter Persall. (Martha Needham and Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – 2019 was a great season to be a Cullman Baseball fan and accolades continue to come down the line for the ‘Cats, along with several other local standouts. The Alabama Sports Writers Association’s All-State baseball selections were announced late Saturday night and Bearcats Head Coach Brent Patterson has been named the 6A Coach of the Year after helping lead the ‘Cats to their fifth state title in school history. Patterson’s Cullman squad finished with a 30-13 mark this season after playing all but three games on the road and capped of the season with a 6A state crown, Patterson’s second as head coach of the Bearcats.

This season was an unconventional one for Cullman. With the construction of the new turf field stretching deep into the season, the ‘Cats were forced to play all but three second-round playoff games away from home. In a season full of adversity, Patterson credits not just his fellow coaches on staff for the recognition, but his players on the field as well.

“I don’t know how to describe it. Anyone that knows the program knows that it’s definitely not me, it’s we. It’s a culmination of all those assistants I lean on so heavily every day in practice and during games for decisions and everything else. I’d say it’s an honor because I get to accept it on all of our behalf’s, not just mine by any means. It’s a team effort for sure and most of the time the coach of the year goes to whoever’s players played the best,” Patterson joked. “So, it really goes back to them.”

Cullman’s Cooper Beck earned a spot on this year’s all-state first team while his teammate Peyton Colvard, West Point’s Aubry Cleghorn and Hunter Persall and Hanceville’s Ashton James each landed on the all-state second team in their respective classifications. Brennen Norton collected an honorable mention on this year’s 6A team after a stellar sophomore season with the Bearcats.

Beck was a huge part of the ‘Cats’ success in 2019. The senior second baseman was a fixture in the top of the lineup and along with his contributions offensively and in the infield, Beck tossed some valuable innings on the mound this season. He wasn’t a regular part of the Cullman rotation from start to finish but he did collect a no-hitter on the hill during his senior campaign and will try to continue growing and developing his game when he gets his college career started with the Wallace State Lions next season.

“Cooper is just a phenomenal athlete and he brings so many things to the table. Offensively, he hit nearly .400, he can run the bases, apply pressure and covers so much ground defensively at second base,” Patterson said. “He can help you win games in so many different ways so for him to be recognized on the first team is awesome. It’s a testament to how much hard work he’s put in and what it takes to separate from the rest of everybody in the state.”

Colvard was another big-time player and leader for the Bearcats in 2019. The senior right-hander became one of the most important cogs in the pitching rotation for Cullman throughout the season and seemed to improve as the year went on. Peyton finished the season with a 7-2 record on the hill to go along with his offensive production and he’ll only look to keep growing as an al-around player when he heads to Calhoun for the start of his collegiate career next season.

“I think when he gave us stability on the mound is when we really took off,” Patterson said. “Some guys started to understand their roles and we were able to kind of build a pitching staff around him and I think what he was able to do gave the team confidence to go out and start putting the puzzle pieces together and believe we really had a chance”

2019 was something of a breakout season for West Point sophomore Aubry Cleghorn. The right-hander stepped up and threw some big innings for the Warriors as one of the primary arms in the rotation this year and managed to put together a 6-2 record. Cleghorn also found himself in the heart of Coach Drew Bryson’s lineup this season and with a couple more seasons left in front of him at West Point, Cleghorn is set up to only keep growing as a player.

It’s been an interesting athletic career for West Point’s Hunter Persall. The senior catcher earned a spot on this year’s all-state second team after yet another standout season with the Warriors and did damage both behind the plate and in the box this season. Persall moved into the leadoff spot of the West Point lineup this season and proved to be one of the most reliable bats for the Warriors offensively but the best news for Persall came earlier when he learned he would be continuing his playing career with Wallace State. Health issues have threatened Persall’s athletic career for years but now he’ll get the chance to extend his playing days with the Lions starting in 2020.

A Hanceville Bulldog landed a spot on this year’s all-state second team as well. Junior outfielder Ashton James earned second-team honors after a phenomenal season with the Bulldogs. James was one of Hanceville’s most consistent hitters in the top of the lineup this season and seemed to always find a way on-base. The Bulldogs will look to James for another big year of production as he gears up for his senior season on the diamond.

Cullman sophomore Brennen Norton already made his presence felt during his freshman season with the Bearcats but has already managed to step it up by the end of his sophomore season. The starting third baseman for the ‘Cats also proved to be one of Coach Brent Patterson’s most reliable arms on the mound and pitched Cullman out of countless sticky situations throughout the season. Most recently, Norton recorded the Bearcats’ only hit of the game and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh against Chelsea to take a 1-0 lead in the state championship series in Montgomery. Norton has already become one of the anchors of this Cullman team and his role will only continue to grow as he continues to improve.

“In my opinion, Brennen Norton is the best third baseman in Alabama,” Patterson said. “Because of what he does defensively combined with being just an electric offensive player with gap power to both sides of the field. He can handle the bat, bunt for hits and brings so much to the table offensively. He got off to a super slow start but day in and day out, that guy is phenomenal at third base. He’s one of the best at-bats of anyone we’ve had in a long time.”

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