HOOVER – Decatur’s Tanner Burns and Westminster Christian’s Annie Willis were named Mr. Baseball and Miss Softball, respectively, by the Alabama Sports Writers Association on Sunday night at the group’s 46th annual convention at the Hyatt-Wynfrey in Hoover.
In addition, Mobile Christian’s Ethan Hearn was named the recipient of the ASWA’s Jimmy Smothers Courage Award. Named after the long-time sports editor of the Gadsden Times and guiding force in the ASWA, it recognizes his commitment to local and high school sports coverage, and honors a high school athlete who has overcome adversity and shown immense courage.
Burns, expected to be a high choice in the Major League Baseball player draft this week, was selected the ASWA’s Class 6A first-team shortstop and the 6A Player of the Year when the group’s prep committee met last week to select its all-state team. Burns was also the 6A hitter of the year in 2016 as a utility player, a first-team pitcher in 2015 and first-team designated hitter as a freshman.
In 37 games for the 32-5 Red Raiders, the senior hit .467 with 18 homers, 46 RBI, 49 hits and 56 runs. He walked 29 times and struck out just six times. As a right-handed pitcher, Burns went 10-1 with a 0.88 ERA and 116 strikeouts against 22 walks, while allowing eight earned runs in 64 innings. The Auburn signee helped Decatur to the quarterfinals – where the team was ranked 32nd in the nation before its loss to Cullman.
Joining Burns on the ASWA's Super 10 baseball players in the state is Piedmont's Taylor Hayes. Hayes, the Class 3A Player of the Year who helped guide Piedmont (27-14) to a state runner-up this season, compiled a .461 average at the plate with 16 doubles, three home runs, a triple, 21 walks, 13 stolen bases, 43 runs scored and 31 RBIs. He also went 10-5 with a save, a 1.76 ERA and 132 strikeouts on the mound. Hayes has signed to play football at Jacksonville State.
Willis was the Pitcher and Player of the Year in Class 4A in helping her team to a runner-up finish and a 51-4-1 record. With 543 strikeouts this year, she finished her pitching career with 1,975. This year, she went 43-3-1 and had an ERA of 0.40. She pitched five no-hitters, three perfect games and 21 shutouts. Willis allowed 44 walks, 90 hits and 15 earned runs in 259 2/3 innings.
The senior hit .464 this year with 12 homers, 64 RBI, 70 hits, scored 40 runs, walked 23 times and struck out just nine times. She was a first-team all-state pitcher as a junior and sophomore and was honorable mention as a freshman. The Troy signee helped the Wildcats to a high-water mark of 14th in the country.
Hearn was honored for his courage in the face of tremendous adversity. The sophomore returned from football practice on a Thursday night last November to find his mother dead of an apparent suicide.
Though his teammates and coaches rushed to his house to comfort him that night, few expected him to make the trip to Oakman early the next morning for the team’s Class 3A quarterfinal playoff game. Not only did Hearn make the trip, he made 8.5 tackles in a Mobile Christian victory and eventually helped power the Leopards to the title game.
ASWA SUPER 10 BASEBALL VOTING
(First place votes in parentheses)
Tanner Burns, Decatur (9) 117
Bubba Thompson, McGill-Toolen (2) 87
Jacob Heatherly, Cullman 80
Cody Greenhill, Russellville 66
Sam Praytor, Helena 57
Connor Jednat, UMS-Wright 39
Taylor Hayes, Piedmont 37
Jonah Smith, Sweet Water 17
Brock Guffey, Hoover 13
Drew Williamson, T.R. Miller 11
MR. BASEBALL WINNERS
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 Chr.
2005: Colby Rasmus, Russell Co.
2004: Patrick White, Daphne
2003: Joey Doan, Baker
2002: Allen Ponder, Lee-Scott Acad.
2001: Eric West, Southside-Gadsden
2000: Wade Miller, G.W. Long
1999: Matthew Maniscalco, Oxford
ASWA SUPER 10 SOFTBALL VOTING
Annie Willis, Westminster Chr. (8) 115
Jenna Ergle, Sumiton Chr. (3) 105
Kendall Beth Sides, Sumiton Chr. 73
Mary Katherine Tedder, Spain Park 70
Abbey Latham, Demopolis 56
Josie Page, Washington Co. 49
Lacey Fincher, Faith Acad. 39
Zoie Emrick, Buckhorn 24
Alex Wilcox, Brantley 23
Amy Woodham, Slocomb 17
MISS SOFTBALL WINNERS
2017: Annie Willis, Westminster Chr.
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
JIMMY SMOTHERS COURAGE AWARD WINNERS
2017: Ethan Hearn, Mobile Chr.
2016: Alex Wilcox, Brantley