Russell Co. HS baseball standouts re-calibrate futures as MLB Draft approaches

Warriors re-calibrate futures as MLB Draft approaches

PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WTVM) - Baseball is a game of timing, and the timing of things couldn’t be any worse for high school senior baseball players, especially for a pair of Russell County Warriors who were sure shots to be high rough draft picks this year.

But things have changed, thanks to the reaction to COVID-19.

It's a whole new ballgame for Logan Austin and Zac Rice. Two months ago, they were key players for a Russell County Warriors squad that was one of the favorites to take the Alabama 6A title, a senior heavy group that had played together for six seasons. Coronavirus ended their chances at a state crown.

We had a good shot of winning this year, going to state, I mean, just ruined,” Austin said.

“It's tough,” said Rice. “I was looking forward to it, had a good shot at winning state, just playing on the field with the guys. It's not going to happen again. I guess you've just got to move past it. There's not really anything you can do about it.”

They were both on fire. Rice, the Warriors center fielder, was hitting .435 and led the team in average, hits, runs scores, doubles, homers, and stolen bases. Austin, the team’s top pitcher, was 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 32 innings, and held opponents to an .088 average. But, no more games, no more chances to raise their status for the upcoming MLB draft. Oh, and one other thing. The draft is only going to be 5 rounds, not 40.

“ I know it's going to be a college-heavy draft,” Rice said, “but guys look for athleticism. I'm very athletic, good speed and all that and I can hit, so I'm prepared just in case.”

“I don't think they're going to have any professional workouts this year, so it's all just going off what they've seen already,” said Austin.

Rice was project to go anywhere from rounds 10-15, which aren't happening. Austin was projected to go in the top five rounds. But now, who knows? All they can do is keep doing workouts to stay sharp. And not get their hopes up too high.

“I'm just going to stay right there on the borderline” Austin said. “I'm not going to say no-I'm-not, I'm not going to say yes-I-am. I'm going to stay right there so I keep pushing myself.”

“I feel like it pushes me harder because now I know it's shorter,” said Rice. “So if anybody wants video I'm right there ready to go. Everybody knows I've still been working and trying to get better and be prepared just in case my name does still get called.”

They have a landing spot. Both Austin and Rice are heading to one of the nation's top JuCo programs, Chipola College in the Florida panhandle.

“It's pretty big,” said Austin. “I just know if I go to Chipola, I can work with Coach Jeff (Harrison), Coach Fio (Jeff Fiorentino), we can work together. We can always get better at something.”

“Great program JuCo-wise, one of the best every year,” Rice said. “They always have good guys come out of there every year, a lot of pro guys, so it's a good fit.”

It will all come clear in a few weeks. The MLB Draft gets underway on June 10.

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