Sixth of an 11-Part Series on the HOF Class of 2019
BY BILL PLOTT
It was almost a given that Mark Mincher would someday be a baseball coach. The pedigree was there as the son of former major leaguer Don Mincher. And quite a baseball coach he became.
Mincher is being enshrined as a member of the Class of 2019 into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The annual banquet is March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
A native of Huntsville, Coach Mincher graduated from Hazel Green High School in 1975 and from Memphis State (now Memphis University) in 1980. He also holds a master’s degree in administration from Alabama A&M. At Hazel Green, he played football, baseball and basketball for four years, earning All-County honors in each sport.
At Memphis, he was a four-year starter on the baseball team, compiling a career batting average of .270 and. The Tigers had a 131-49 record during his tenure. They won the Metro Conference championship in 1978 and made two NCAA regional tournament appearances.
He began his teaching and coaching career in 1980 at Monrovia Middle School in Madison County. His first duties were coaching football, baseball and both and boys’ and girls’ basketball. The boys won a junior high county championship.
In 1982 he moved to Sparkman High School as junior varsity baseball and basketball coach. He also was a football assistant. He was elevated to head baseball coach in 1983. His Senators had one appearance in the state playoffs, and Mincher was named Madison County Baseball Coach of the Year in 1984.
He moved to Huntsville High School as an assistant in varsity football and head coach in freshman football. He was also varsity baseball coach, a position he held until 2012. From 1995-2012, he was also HHS athletic director.
While compiling a record of 576-353, his baseball teams won 12 city championships, eight area championships and one state championship (2011). They were in the state playoffs 18 times. He was named National Federation of High Schools and Alabama Baseball Coaches Association state Coach of the Year in 2011.
He was named Huntsville city Coach of the Year eight times and metro Coach of the Year four times. He was named AHSAA/AHSADCA Athletic Director of the Year for 2005-06 and was inducted into the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Gregory L. Hicks, director of behavioral learning for Huntsville City Schools, wrote of Mincher: “I first met Coach Mincher in the summer of 2003. I had just joined the Huntsville High School faculty and coaching staff. At that time, Coach Mincher was the head freshman football coach, head baseball coach, athletic director and math teacher. While at Huntsville High, I learned a great deal from Coach Mincher. Most of all, I learned to be a leader, a gentleman and a winner! He is an outstanding coach, family man and educator. I am proud to have served alongside this great person.”
Huntsville High School Principal and Freshman Academy Coordinator Leslie Esneault wrote: “With 32 years of coaching, 27 of those at Huntsville High School, Coach Mark Mincher is one of the most well-respected coaches in Alabama. Having had a remarkable mentor in his father, Don Mincher, and known for his integrity and dedication to his school and his players, Coach Mincher is an outstanding example of an exemplary leader in the athletic community.”
“In addition to coaching, Mark was a valuable member of the HHS math department, and in 2009 entered the administration arena to become an assistant principal. During this time, Mark provided thoughtful guidance and direction on important decisions that affected our students and school. I put complete faith in his knowledge, and I value his recommendations. He is a highly reliable authority on eligibility and AHSAA rules. With his years and experience on the field and in the classroom, he is a mentor/leader for our novice coaches and teachers.
“Even with all these awards and accolades, Mark will tell you that his most rewarding coaching experience came in May of 2011, when after 30 years of coaching, he led the Huntsville High School Panther varsity baseball team to the school’s first Alabama 6A state championship, a title that took over a century to claim! Coach Mincher was able to demonstrate that high expectations, commitment, dedication and a ‘can do’ attitude can achieve even the most difficult of accomplishments. Mark’s determination and perseverance should be examples for us all.”
A former player, Kevin J. Wieseman, who later served as Huntsville City Schools’ athletic director and principal at Lee High School, wrote: “As a young man I was honored to play for a young energetic coach at Sparkman High School who showed a true commitment to the players and a commitment to developing them as productive members of society. Since those days I have gone on to serve with him on his baseball staff and work under his leadership as Huntsville High’s athletic director.
“He assisted my coaching career by serving as an assistant on the football staff while I was head coach at Huntsville High. We continued our collaboration after I became Huntsville City Schools Athletic Director, working together to organize athletic programs and promote student-athletes. I consider it a blessing to be associated with this man and his distinguished career. Mark Mincher was first my trusted coach, then a peer that I respected and learned from, and most importantly a friend with whom I share common values and beliefs.”
Mincher currently is serving as athletic director at Madison Academy.
COMING TUESDAY: Installment 7 – Basketball Coach Schuessler Ware, Anniston.
MONTGOMERY – The South won game one 3-2 Tuesday afternoon and the North bounced back to claim the nightcap 6-2 as the North-South All-Star Baseball Games kicked off the 2018 All-Star Week of all-star competition.
The softball and soccer all-star competition was also held Tuesday night. The North-South boys’ and girls’ cross country races kick off the action Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m., at the Auburn-Montgomery (AUM) on-campus cross country course. The North-South girls’ and boys’ basketball all-star games will be played Wednesday night at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome at Alabama State University. The girls play at 5 p.m., and the boys follow at 7.
The All-Star Sports Week, an extravaganza that showcases the top student-athletes in the AHSAA in sports competition including baseball, softball, soccer, cross country, basketball, volleyball and football, has been administered annually since 1997 by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).
“This is a week where we see the best of the best competing in a pure spirit sportsmanship,” said AHSADCA Director Jamie Lee. “We are proud to showcase these student-athletes and coaches who represent the AHSAA so admirably.”
The South baseball squad, coached by Thomasville’s Rob Carpenter and Opelika’s Nick Richardson, won the Tuesday opener in dramatic fashion scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Davidson’s Kolbe Blunt drew a lead-off walk, went to third single by Tyler Darby of Alma Bryant and scored on a one-out wild pitch by Grayson Bray with Camden Lovrich of Trinity Presbyterian at the plate to give the home team the win.
The South, which picked up its 12th win in the series, took a quick 2-0 in the first inning when Skipper Snypes of UMS-Wright opened with a double and scored on a passed ball. G.W. Long’s Matthew Snell followed with a single and scored on an infield grounder by Jake Holifield of St. Paul’s Episcopal.
The North All-Stars, coached by Josh Hoyle of Corner and Chris Heaps of Russellville, tied the game a 2-2 in the top of the third when Sheffield’s Chandler Moon walked and scored and Mason McCormack of Deshler singled and scored. Parker’s Phillip Edwards and J.D. Tittle drove in the runs with infield ground outs.
Pitching dominated the rest of the way. Snell hurled the final inning striking out two of the three batters he faced to get the win in relief. Chandler Best of McGill-Toolen Catholic hurled to scoreless inning as the South starter and struck out three. Five South pitchers combined to allow just two hits and struck out eight.
North starter Jackson Kimbrell of Oak Mountain allowed all three South hits in his two innings, allowed two runs and struck out four. McCormack followed with two hitless innings and four strikeouts, and Haleyville’s Blake Bennett allowed no hits and struck out two in two innings. Hartselle’s Bray, the loser, walked one and struck out one in the final inning – giving the North pitchers a combined 11 strikeouts.
GAME 2: North 6, South 2: North pitchers Grayson Bray of Hartselle, Trey Wright of Buckhorn, John Turner of Oxford and Garrett McMillan of Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, combined to hurl a three-hitter to salvage a split in the doubleheader Tuesday night. The quartet struck out a combined six batters. Turner got the win allowing two hits and striking out one while pitching the fourth and fifth innings. McMillan hurled two shutout innings, allowed no hits and struck out two to get the save.
Zac Durham of Jasper doubled to drive in two runs in the bottom of the first inning to put the North ahead for good. Chandler Moon of Sheffield singled and scored on Phillip Edwards’ sacrifice fly in the third inning. Edwards also had one hit. McCormack, pitched well in game one, had a hit and run scored, picked up an RBI in game two to capture North MVP honors. Peyton Wilson of Hoover also doubled and had an RBI for the North, which now holds a 23-12-1 edge in the series dating back to 1997.
St. Paul’s Jake Holifield, the South starting pitcher in game two, allowed only one hit but gave up the first two runs to get the loss. He had a hit in each game and drove in a run to earn South MVP honors. Reece Solar of Alabama Christian and David Warren of Providence Christian each drove in a run for the South in the second game.
All-Star Sports Week Results
Game 1: South 3, North 2
Game 2: North 6, South 2
Girls: North 2, South 0
Game 1: South 3, North 0
Series Records (Through 2018)
Football – South leads 30-26-2
Boys Basketball – North leads 48-27
Girls Basketball – North leads 18-3
Baseball – North leads 23-12-1
Softball – North leads 25-21-3
Boys Soccer – North leads 11-4-1
Girls Soccer – North leads 15-2-1
Volleyball – North leads 14-6
Boys Cross Country – North leads 1-0
Girls Cross Country – North leads 1-0
MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Sports Writers Association named St. Luke's Jeremiah Jackson Mr. Baseball and Brantley's Leanna Johnson Miss Softball during Sunday’s annual banquet at Montgomery’s Embassy Suites Hotel.
ASWA also honored Pleasant Valley volleyball player Anna Bryant with the Jimmy Smothers Courage Award.
Jackson led St. Luke's to the Class 2A state semifinals, batting .637 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 34 games. Jackson hit .439 with 34 homers, 199 RBIs and 152 walks in his career, helping the Wildcats to a pair of state titles.
He was picked No. 57 overall in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels.
Jackson heads the Super All-State list and is joined by Homewood's Josh Hall, Auburn's Brooks Fuller, Andalusia's Ethan Wilson, Sweet Water's Jonah Smith, Hoover's Sonny DiChiria, Cullman's Will Morrison, Headland's Chase Wilkerson, Mobile Christian's Ethan Hearn and G.W. Long's Dylan Register.
Troy signee Johnson led Brantley to the Class 1A state championship with a 48-4 record, posting a state-best 536 strikeouts and 31 shutouts with an 0.45 ERA. She also batted .374 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs.
She helped the Bulldogs to state titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Johnson is the first Class 1A player selected Miss Softball.
Johnson leads the Super All-State softball list along with Springville's Abby Swaney, Fairhope's Samantha Yarbrough, Spain Park's Annabelle Widra, Thompson's Lauren Haskins, Daphne's Kennedy Cronan, Baker's Victoria Ortiz, Wilson's Johnna Staggs, G.W. Long's Olivia Baker and Macon-East's Taylor McKinney.
Jackson is the 20th Mr. Baseball and first St. Luke's player to win the award. No player has repeated as Mr. Baseball
Johnson is the 16th Miss Softball and first Brantley player to earn the honor. Grissom’s Anna Thompson is the only two-time Miss Softball winner, earning the award in 2004 and 2006.
Only Pisgah, Hueytown and Baker have multiple winners in the 16-year history of the award.
Pisgah’s Holly Currie won the first Miss Softball award in 2003 and Shelby Holley won in 2011. Hueytown’s Lindsey Dunlap won in 2008 and Leigh Streetman won in 2010 while Baker’s Tara Donaldson won in 2005 and Lacey Sumerlin in 2015.
Pleasant Valley's Bryant starred in volleyball and also played softball until her sophomore year when a foul ball screamed into the dugout and struck her in the head. She was diagnosed with a slow brain bleed, requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation.
Bryant returned to volleyball her junior season and was MVP of the Calhoun County tourney as a senior. She was a Bryant-Jordan Achievement Award winner.
2018 ASWA Super All-State Baseball
Mr. Baseball: Jeremiah Jackson, St. Luke’s
Josh Hall, Homewood
Brooks Fuller, Auburn
Ethan Wilson, Andalusia
Jonah Smith, Sweet Water
Sonny DiChiria, Hoover
Will Morrison, Cullman
Chase Wilkerson, Headland
Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian
Dylan Register, G.W. Long
ASWA Mr. Baseball Winners
2018: Jeremiah Jackson, St. Luke’s
2017: Tanner Burns, Decatur
2016: Owen Lovell, Cullman
2015: Brax Garrett, Florence
2014: Cody Reed, Ardmore
2013: Keegan Thompson, Cullman
2012: Mikey White, Spain Park
2011: Daniel Koger, Huntsville
2010: Daryl Norris, Fairhope
2009: Luke Bole, Hartselle
2008: Tyler Stovall, Hokes Bluff
2007: John David Smelser, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
2006: Del Howell, American Christian
2005: Colby Rasmus, Russell County
2004: Patrick White, Daphne
2003: Joey Doan, Baker
2002: Allen Ponder, Lee-Scott Academy
2001: Eric West, Southside-Gadsden
2000: Wade Miller, G.W. Long
1999: Matthew Maniscalco, Oxford
2018 ASWA Super All-State Softball
Miss Softball: Leanna Johnson, Brantley
Abby Swaney, Springville
Samantha Yarbrough, Fairhope
Annabelle Widra, Spain Park
Lauren Haskins, Thompson
Kennedy Cronan, Daphne
Victoria Ortiz, Baker
Johnna Staggs, Wilson
Olivia Baker, G.W. Long
Taylor McKinney, Macon-East
ASWA Miss Softball Winners
2018: Leanna Johnson, Brantley
2017: Annie Willis, Westminster Christian
2016: Ashlee Swindle, Curry
2015: Lacey Sumerlin, Baker
2014: Madi Moore, Winfield
2013: Kasey Cooper, Dothan
2012: Haylie McCleney, Mortimer Jordan
2011: Shelby Holley, Pisgah
2010: Leigh Streetman, Hueytown
2009: Hilary Phillips, Ider
2008: Lindsey Dunlap, Hueytown
2007: Whitney Larsen, Vestavia Hills
2006: Anna Thompson, Grissom
2005: Tara Donaldson, Baker
2004: Anna Thompson, Grissom
2003: Holly Currie, Pisgah
GAME 2: Auburn 1, Hewitt-Trussville 0 (Auburn wins championship)
MONTGOMERY – Senior Drew Jennings turned in a stellar pitching performance Saturday in game two of the Class 7A State Baseball Championship Series art Riverwalk Stadium and shut out Hewitt-Trussville 1-0 to seal the Tigers’ fourth state championship and first since 2010.
Jennings (10-2) allowed just three hits, had two walks and struck out six – but more importantly, pitched out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings to notch the final game victory. His superb effort came just 18 hours just 16 hours after teammate Brooks Fuller hurled four-hitter in game one to beat the Huskies 4-1.
Coach Matt Cimo’s Tigers (34-8) limited Hewitt-Trussville (32-11) to just one run and seven hits in the series. Coach Jeff Mauldin’s staff also pitched well, blanking Auburn in 13 of the 15 innings played, held the Tigers to nine total hits and five total runs.
Michael Fowler started Saturday for the Huskies pitched the first inning allowing one hit and no runs before leaving the game with soreness in his arm. Davis Burgin hurled the final six innings, allowing only three hits, one run and striking out three.
That one run turned out to be the big one. Auburn lead-off hitter Garrett Morris drew a walk to open the top of the third inning, stole second and went to third on Griffin Speaks’ bunt single. Jackson Arnold followed with a sacrifice fly to right field and Morris scored. It would be the only run the Tigers could muster all day but it was enough.
Jennings, who earned Class 7A series MVP honors, ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth when Tyler Mauldin, who had two hits, singled with two outs. Creed Parker was inserted as a pinch runner and moved to second when Caden Kirk drew a walk. Parker and Kirk double steals to move to second and third, but Jennings struck the next batter out to snuff the rally.
In the seventh inning, Jacob Bishop singled to opening the inning, advanced to second on a throwing error and moved to third on Zach Defnall’s sacrifice bunt. Jennings then got the next two batters to ground out to end the game.
Mauldin finished two singles an Bishop had the hit for Hewitt. Speaks had two hits for the Tigers, Ryan Lambert and Tanner Jones had the other hits.
Hewitt-Trussville beat Auburn in 2016 to win the school’s only 7A state title. Auburn returned in 2017 falling to Hoover in the finals. The Tigers won championships previously in 1986, 2009 and 2010.
The 7A series ended the 63rd AHSAA State Baseball Championships, which were held annually from 1948 to 1961 for large schools, discontinued from 1962-69 and reinstated in 1970 completing its 49th season in the current format of separate classification championships.
It has been played annually in Montgomery since 2001.
GAME 1: Auburn 4, Hewitt-Trussville 1
MONTGOMERY – Senior Brooks Fuller pitched a four-hitter and struck out eight in the AHSAA Class 7A State Baseball Championship Series opener at Paterson Field Friday night as Auburn posted a 4-1 victory over Hewitt-Trussville to take a 1-0 edge into the best 2-of-3 series Saturday.
GAME 3: Hazel Green 1, Helena 0 (Hazel Green is state champ)
MONTGOMERY – Hazel Green High School Coach Frankie Perez said he learned early on in his first season as the Trojans’ head baseball coach that in a clutch situation, he and the team wanted to ball in the hand of senior left-handed pitcher Tyler Duskin.
Friday night, Perez did just that and Duskin did not disappoint the Hazel Green faithful. Duskin hurled a five-hit shutout in game three of the AHSAA’s Class 6A State Baseball Championship Series as the Trojans nipped Helena 1-0, and Hazel Green (32-13) captured the school’s first-ever state baseball title.
GAME 2: Faith Academy 7, Russellville 3 (Faith is state champion)
MONTGOMERY – The third time was the charm for Faith Academy’s baseball team Friday morning as the Rams beat Russellville 7-3 to complete the sweep of the AHSA Class 5A State 5A State Baseball Championship Series at Riverwalk Stadium.
Russellville (30-16) won the 5A title in 2015, 2016 and 2017 – beating Faith Academy in the finals the last two seasons. This year’s finals belonged to Coach Matt Seymour’s Rams (36-3).
Sophomore pitcher Eli Giles (8-1), who pitched the final two outs of Thursday night’s 5-3 win in game one to notch a save, hurled six strong innings Friday allowing only four hits, one earned run and striking out eight to get the win. He was also named the Class 5A series MVP.
Faith Academy pecked away at Russellville from the get-go scoring a single run in the first, third and fifth innings to take a 3-1 lead into the top of the sixth. Senior catcher Chris Sargent delivered a bases-loaded double to clear the bases and then pinch runner Brandon White added the fourth run of the inning scoring on John Griffin Bell’s suicide squeeze bunt.
Coach Chris Heaps’ Golden Tigers scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and relief pitcher James Flynn shut done Russellville in the seventh inning to seal the win.
Faith Academy got eight total hits with Braxton Bell had a double and two singles, John Griffin Bell had one hit and two RBIs, Jackson Bell had the double and three RBIs, and Reece Ewing had two hits.
Starting pitcher Rudy Fernandez (6-4) pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowed five hits, two earned runs and struck out two for Russellville. Houston Kitterman had a single and RBI while Brock Malone, Devin Buckhalter and Fernandez each had one hit for the Tigers.
The Class 6A series between Helena (26-15) and Hazel Green (31-12) gets underway at 4 p.m., today at Riverwalk. The Trojans won Thursday’s game 4-3 and holds a 1-0 edge in the best 2-of-3 series.
The Class 7A championship series opens Friday at 6 p.m. at Paterson Field with Hewitt-Trussville (32-9) facing Auburn (35-7). The 7A series close the AHSAA Championships Saturday at Riverwalk Stadium with game two at 10 a.m.
All championship series games are being live-streamed over the NFHS Network.
The AHSAA Softball Championships is underway at Lagoon Park today through Saturday.
GAME 1: Hazel Green 4, Helena 3
GAME 1: Faith Academy 5, Russellville 3
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