Walton catcher Jared Jones was recently named the Freshman Player of the Year by MaxPreps.
The freshman All-American hit .412 with eight doubles, a triple and 13 home runs, 42 RBIs in helping the Raiders to a 23-11 record and a trip to the Class AAAAAAA state quarterfinals.
Not to be outdone, Allatoona’s Logan McGuire joined Jones as an Underclass All-American with his selection to the Sophomore All-American team.
Walton coach Shane Amos said Jones' honors were perfect for his growth as a baseball player.
“I am proud of this kid,” Amos said. “It means a lot for his development as a player, and he still has years left to get better. This is a great launching point for Jared, so this should really mean a lot for him.”
Being named the best freshman in high school baseball is no small feat, and the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jones did not expect it.
“This is unreal,” he said. “When I found out, I didn’t believe it. To be selected as a top freshman is cool in itself. I did not see this coming.”
Amos understood what Jones was capable off long before he hit a ball for Walton.
“The expectations were high for him,” Amos said. “He had a strong billing coming up, so we knew what he could offer us. He can hit a baseball and that’s for sure.”
Jones said he continues to focus on hitting the ball at a high rate.
“It’s always about focus with me,” he said. “I look for pitches in the zone. If I am feeling good, I let it rip. I love being at the plate because it allows me an opportunity to get some points on the board for my team.”
Amos said Jones’ swing improved throughout the season. He started swinging from his hands and not his shoulders, which was a huge contributor to his home runs.
Allatoona coach Keith Hansen said McGuire showed why he should be named to the All-America list.
“It’s a huge honor for Logan,” Hansen said. “To me, I think this is bigger than what he realizes. It is a national honor, so there are thousands of high school players out there, and for him to be selected is just great. He deserves this.”
McGuire said he "couldn’t be more honored.”
“Last season allowed me to learn and grow with my team," he added. "I didn’t think I would make the list, but it is a humbling feeling honestly.”
McGuire proved he was deserving by going 5-2 with a 1.62 ERA, 53 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings pitched. He was also named to the Georgia Dugout Preview Class AAAAAA all-state team.
The 6-3, 170-pound McGuire also made the All-America team as a freshman after Allatoona appeared in the state championship series. Last season, he served as a reliever, and Hansen remembered the moment McGuire took the mound.
“It was the third game of the year, and he got the start,” Hansen said. “He had commanded the offense on all three of his pitches. From that point, I knew he was a talented kid.”
McGuire said pitching is where he has to improve most.
“My pitching ability, I would say, grew over the course of last season,” he said. “I just have to get better at not allowing base hits and walks per inning. I would also like to get my ERA a little lower as well.
Hansen described McGuire as a “no-nonsense” player, a reason for why he is getting early success.
“Logan does not complain about anything,” Hansen said. “He is constantly working on his craft. He is going to be a good player one day, and he shows that every single game.”
At Walton, Amos said the same about Jones.
“We will be a young team next year, so he will be one of the anchors of our team, for sure,” Amos said. “I love everything about him. He has a chance to be special some day.”