Photo by Derrick Mahone
Kelcey White became the first Mount Zion coach to lead the school’s baseball team to a state playoff berth. The Bulldogs will travel to Harris County to take on the Region 3-AAAA champions Friday in a best-of-three series.
JONESBORO — Over the last two years, Mount Zion baseball has made history.
It’s taken coach Kelcey White all of four seasons to build a program that has had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in school history.
Last year’s squad found its way to its first-ever state tournament trip.
Although they were defeated soundly in two games by Harris County, White says he is encouraged because the signs of progress cannot be denied.
“I see myself as a visionary,” White said. “I took this job, and when some would have run away after the first year, after four years I’m still here. I took this job because I see Mount Zion as a sleeping giant. I think we’re just scratching the surface on what we can do here.”
So far the Bulldogs (3-3, 1-2) look solid, playing to .500 despite having to go without two of their best players who have been sidelined for disciplinary reasons. Mount Zion is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A.
White believes that if he would’ve had his full complement of players all season, his team would be undefeated.
But White says some things are more important than winning.
“Discipline and academics come first in our program,” White said. “But the good thing about situations like that is new players can emerge.”
One of those is outfielder and team captain Christopher Patterson, who has sparked the Bulldogs at the plate by hitting .421 through his first six games. The junior credits his emergence as part of a team-wide increase in confidence based on the last two seasons.
“I think we’ve shown with this team that we have lots of potential,” Patterson said. “I think we can beat anybody in our region on any given day as long as we continue working hard.”
Make no mistake about it, Mount Zion’s region (4-AAAAA) is no pushover. It’s a top heavy league with proven squads like Ola, Mundy’s Mill, Northgate and Whitewater. But White said he saw the kind of dedication and commitment to getting better during the summer and fall that made him believe that his is a program that’s poised to turn a major corner.
“This year we had a very good offseason conditioning program where these guys just put in the work,” White said. “You could see it. Guys like Chris Patterson, Rafael Cabral, Aaron Harris and Sam Glickman — those last three guys are sophomores. They put in the work and it’s obvious.”
Cabral is 10 of 18 from the plate this year with two home runs already and a team-leading eight RBIs. White said he is showing leadership for the Bulldogs despite his youth. Mount Zion prepares for two important region games Friday against Drew and Saturday against Stockbridge.
White said that the fast growth of his young players is just another sign of a rapidly maturing program.
“We’re still building,” White said. “We’re still learning how to expect to compete and to win every game we play. So far it feels good. We can see the results of our work, and we’re looking forward to making another run at state.”