Safe At Second

Whittle relishes legacy he inherited at second base

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

April 3, 2008 - For SSHS senior second baseman Brandon Whittle, filling the shoes of two-time district MVP Josh Riley and fellow classmate Brittan Diamond has been a challenge he has relished his past two seasons.

"It played a toll on me the first year knowing that Josh had been back there as a two-time MVP and then having Brittan with me being the backup last year, I was able to get a lot of playing time," the senior said. "Now that I am the full-time guy, I have to show Coach (Jerrod) Hammack that I am a true player, and I pretty much do my best every night."

Hammack said he has been privileged to have such talent in the middle of the infield.

"In my three years here, the first guy in Josh Riley was a player that you really can't have it any better than that," he said. "Last year, Brittan Diamond played some second base when he didn't pitch and then Brandon would play second on those days. He is now the full-time second baseman, and I have been very fortunate to have those three kids at second."

In 16 games this season, Whittle is batting .304 with five doubles and five RBI in the No. 9 hole and said that is a spot that he does not mind batting in for the Wildcats. He also has a .947 fielding percentage at second base.

"To me, Coach Hammack has a lot of confidence in me being in the nine hole in the lineup," Brandon said. "Most people think that if you are in the nine hole that you are not very good, but to me, I think I am a clutch hitter to get back up to the top to keep things going."

With the Wildcats having a chance of making the playoffs for the third straight year, Whittle said he has a specific goal in mind in becoming a First Team All-District second baseman.

"I really think I have the potential to do it this year," he said. "My biggest competition is going to be the kid from T-High because he is back this year. I am hoping that I play my cards right and everything falls into place."

Hammack said being able to have Whittle in the lineup every night makes him confident that he will get quality play out of him at the plate and at second base.

"Brandon is a steady ball player that will make the routine plays, which is all you can ask out of a guy," Hammack said. "He can also make a great play, and he has been in the nine hole all year long and does a great job for us. He always has a smile on his face and is a positive influence on this team. We are really glad to have him on the team this year."

Whittle said showing leadership as one of eight seniors to his teammates is something that is an honor.

"It feels like you have more authority over everyone and that everyone follows you," the senior said. "Since we have been on varsity before, we have experience over everybody, and we know what needs to be done and what needs to be accomplished."

Whittle said the experience that he has gained as a member of the baseball team has been in large part due to Hammack.

"Coach Hammack is one of the best coaches that I have been around. I really love him as a coach and he is funny and gets down to business," Whittle said. "He knows what he is talking about and he will get after us if we are not doing good with a speech that means that we need to start buckling down."

When Whittle is not playing baseball for the Wildcats, he is teaching baseball lessons or being a part of the FCA and Key Club at the high school.

The son of Randy and Cathy Whittle, he plans on attending the Paris Junior College Tech Center in the fall with plans of studying radiology.

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