CENTRE - In a county so rich with baseball talent, earning a Most Valuable Player honor is a tough feat to accomplish.
Winning it twice is almost unheard of, but that's something Cherokee County High School senior infielder Jaren Lockridge can now say.
Lockridge won the award as a sophomore in 2015. That season, he batted .491 with 10 doubles, a triple, two home runs, four walks, 19 runs and 12 RBIs.
Last year, Lockridge batted .413 with eight doubles, a triple, 11 walks, 29 runs and 20 RBIs as teammate Colin Brewer claimed the county MVP honor.
This season, despite the setbacks of shoulder injuries, Lockridge still managed to play in 31 of the Warriors' 35 games and make a significant impact. He finished the year batting .514 with 10 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 12 walks, 42 runs and 38 RBIs in earning his second county baseball MVP honor in three seasons.
"A .514 batting average and a .579 on-base percentage, you just don't do that in big boy baseball," coach Fran Blanchard said. "Jaren did that hurt. His shoulder popped out twice, and we had to move him to second, but he still did it without any consideration of himself.
"That's the thing about Jaren. There's never an excuse with him. He loves the game so much that he puts everything on the line. It's been proven at practice. It's been proven in games. Everything about him is good. He's unbelievable."
Blanchard points to one play in particular that defines Lockridge's determination.
"Against Madison Academy, him and Marty (Colin Edwards) turn a double play. He flips it over, and what does he do his next at-bat? He comes up and singles. That is quintessential to what an MVP is," Blanchard said. "He's a guy who puts everything on the line without any remorse, without any consideration of his health. He's doing it for his teammates. That's an MVP."
Lockridge said it was hard for him to overcome his injuries this season, but he wanted to keep on going for his teammates.
"There was a lot I couldn't do. I couldn't just let loose and throw as hard as I could. I couldn't dive. I just had to take it slow and take my time, make sure I kept my shoulder healthy, but I knew I had to keep going on and make it through. I knew I had to overcome it, keep myself strong and just keep playing for my team," Lockridge said.
Lockridge's effort and determination have certainly paid off. He will continue playing baseball at Chattanooga State next spring after signing with the school back in February.
"I'm glad to go out the way I did," Lockridge said. "There's bunch of great athletes here (in Cherokee County). Several other schools had good seasons and there's good athletes at those schools. It's just really an honor to be the MVP of a county like this. I'm proud of it.
"Whenever I look back on baseball, I'll think about the end of this season and the great times I had with my buddies. It's definitely been a great season to end on. Everyone always wanted to be out there and put in the work. Everyone was excited to practice. Everyone was excited to play and do whatever it took to get better."
Joining Lockridge from the Warriors (25-10) is his brother, Jy Lockridge, along with Brewer, Edwards, Josh Decker, Cade Gossett, Mason Rodgers, Christian Stinson, Gunnar Gable, Caleb Ransum and Noah Ledbetter. Chris Ray and Ethan Johnson earned honorable mention.
Cedar Bluff (19-14) had five all-county selections in Ross Johnson, Ethan Teague, Anthony Dingler, Dakota Dobbins and Keaton Kilgro. Greyson Wilson earned an honorable mention.
Spring Garden (20-8) had six all-county selections in Dawson Broome, Ben Ivey, Riley Austin, Joe Rogers, Austin Slayton and Christian Crider. Panther honorable mentions went to Luke Ivey, Colby Slayton and Austin Finch.
The Gaylesville Trojans (15-10) had three all-county selections in Austin Stordahl, Brandon Crane and Landon Lawson. Trojan honorable mention players are Brayden Stordahl and Devin Bentheimer.
The Sand Rock Wildcats (9-14) also had three all-county selections in Bradon Carver, Carson Carver and Perry Stevens. Wildcat honorable mention players are Gaston Willard, Austin Blackstock, Noah McMeekin and Brady Jackson.