When the 2019 season began, there were some question marks surrounding the Gordon Lee Trojans and their quest for back-to-back state championships.
Sure, the starting pitching was there, but could the Trojans produce enough offense to compliment that starting pitching without having to rely on it every single night out, especially with the graduation of some of the club’s biggest power hitters from the previous season?
Yes they could.
The Gordon Lee offense used a tremendous team effort all season long to put up over 8.5 runs a night as part of a 32-5 campaign that saw them capture another Region 6-A title before earning the program’s fourth all-time state championship banner.
Today, two of the team’s most prolific hitters — senior catcher Chris Potter and junior shortstop J.D. Day — are being honored as the Walker County Players of the Year for the 2019 season.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Potter. “I couldn’t really imagine a player better suited for this (award) than J.D. and I’m really honored to be mentioned along with him. I was just trying to do my best for the team all year and help us win, but I’m grateful for the award. It’s a big honor.”
Potter, an All-State first team pick and a West Georgia signee, hit a team-high .398 for the year with 10 doubles, a triple, five homers and 37 RBIs for the Navy-and-White, but shined even more in the region and state tournaments.
He hit safely in 11 of the team’s 12 postseason games, batting a sparkling .559 (19-for-34). Four of his homeruns and 16 of his RBIs came in the playoffs.
“The weather just heated up and when the weather heated up, the bat heated up,” Potter shrugged, adding that he fed off the energy of the Gordon Lee fans. “They’re behind me and when I step in the box, there’s really nothing like it. There were times when the ball started looking like a beach ball coming at me.”
As good as his offense was, Potter was especially proud of the work he has put in behind the dish.
“I’ve always been mainly a hitter for most of my life, but once I got to high school, Coach (Mike) Dunfee said I really needed to work on my defense,” he continued. “I’ve just been striving to be the best behind the plate that I could and I tried to be a wall for everybody. One of the things that Coach Dunfee says is that a team is only as good as its catcher and I strongly believe that. Being a wall behind the plate really just sets the tone for the whole team.”
Out on the field, Day also made more than his share of highlight-quality plays.
“I just try to make every play that I can to help lower our pitchers’ pitch-counts,” he explained. “It really helps when you have guys like Jake (Wright) and Jake (Poindexter) out there throwing. To be able to help them get out of innings is just a really good feeling.”
At the dish, Day was equally as effective.
He was second on the Gordon Lee roster with a robust .368 batting average and tied Potter for the second-most homers on the team with five. The All-State first team pick also added 12 doubles and drove in a team-best 41 runs as the Trojans won 17 of their final 18 games — including 16 in a row at one point — to close out the year.
“(This season) felt great,” he said. “Especially being able to know that I had the guys behind me and in front of me that could help us win.”
Day also stepped up in the postseason by hitting .300 with a homer and eight RBIs, but it was one memorable swing of the bat in the Region 6-A championship game against Fellowship Christian when he wrote his name in Gordon Lee lore.
Trailing 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Trojans came storming back. They plated two runs on a blast by Potter as part of a three-run inning. Then, with the championship hanging in the balance, Day ripped the game-tying three-run homer to left-center in the bottom of the seventh. Gordon Lee went on to win the game, 7-6, in extras.
“It feels great, especially being able to share this with Chris,” Day added. “He’s a heck of a ball player and just being able to be mentioned in the same category with him is great.”
Day has received interest from the likes of Cleveland State and Alabama-Birmingham and says he wants to help his teammates get back to the state championship and win another title in 2020, while Potter will head to Carrollton with a pair of state rings and tons of memories.
“It’s been a great (high school career) with two state championships and not many people can say that,” he added. “I’m really glad that we did that. It’s definitely something I’m going to remember forever and I’ll forever be thankful to have been a part of this program.”