“It was definitely more about playing for Alexandria and winning,” Whiting said. “There was no outside pressure of needing to hit .400 or anything, so I just focused 100 percent on winning.”
And yet, Whiting hit .480 on the year with an on-base percentage of .532. As a result, he is The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County Class 4A-6A player of the year. The senior led the team with 59 hits, 25 doubles, 43 RBIs and two home runs.
Of his two home runs, Whiting’s biggest came in the second round of the playoffs against county rival Jacksonville. After Alexandria lost the first game of the series, the Valley Cubs held a 6-5 lead heading to the last inning, when Whiting led off the seventh with a home run to left field. It sparked a six-run inning.
“My favorite moment was when we beat Jacksonville,” Whiting said.
Whiting’s success was no secret. Since he didn’t play any other sports his senior year, the catcher trained at Excel from August to January before baseball practice started.
“I hope it’s just maturity,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said. “Jake’s always been a good player, but this year he really came out offensively and defensively and was a leader for us. We had other guys leading, too, but Jake just really did it for us.”
Whiting’s leadership showed in the third round against Ardmore when he was the first to hit Vanderbilt commit Cody Reed. Four days after Reed threw a three-hitter against Alexandria, Whiting tagged Reed for an RBI double in the top of the first inning.
“The first double was a big moment,” Whiting said. “It was the first big hit we had the whole series. That kind of set the table for that game.”
The catcher would also record an RBI single and was also hit by a pitch in the Valley Cubs’ 4-3 loss.
“We just always wanted him up in a big situation. He responds to the moment very well and in big games he shows up,” Shaw said. “In the first game against Ardmore, I thought the big left hander showed up, but Jake worked hard the next couple of days that we didn’t get to play and got the best of him the next day. That’s the kind of kid Jake is. He’s not one to settle for anything.”
Whiting’s next challenge will arrive quickly at Division II Montevallo. While the Alexandria product said he’s going to take the same approach toward the offseason before his freshman year in college as his senior year in high school, Shaw thinks Whiting will be successful in more ways than one.
“I think he’ll do well there,” he said. “He’s going to do well in school and that’s big. His grades are very important to him, also, and just in life the sky is going to be the limit. I don’t know how long he’ll play baseball, but hopefully he will go as far as he wants to.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star