Alabama State baseball: ASU junior Amion leads nation in runs scored

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Alabama State center fielder Richard Amion scored twice on Sunday to give Alabama State the series’ victory over Alcorn State after splitting a doubleheader on Saturday.

The two runs give Amion 53 for the year, tops among all Division I baseball players in America.

“It feels great to be at the top of the list,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll stay at the top of the list. When I get on base, I don’t have to steal as many bases as last year because I know the big dogs behind me are going to drive me in.”

Amion didn’t get here by accident. The leadoff hitter for the Hornets has worked hard off the field and studied his opposing pitchers to become a well-rounded hitter.

“The difference this year is every morning I wake up and get a lift in (the weight room),” Amion said. “Game day, non-game day, I get an early-morning tee after I lift and at night after practice I get extra work in, me and some of the guys. I think that’s the biggest difference this year.

“We all play with more confidence. The more work you put in, the more you get out of it.”

Alabama State coach Mervyl Melendez said Amion’s rise to the top of scoring producers actually started last year when the coach noticed his leadoff hitter getting a little more aggressive on the bases. Against Samford last week, for example, Amion scored from first on a routine two-out single to right field, beating the throw home to tie the game.

“When he’s on base and a guy behind him gets a base hit, he’s always thinking third base and possibly home plate,” Melendez said. “He’s anticipating scoring on a play where he should not score, so he never really slows down.”

Of course, it all starts at the plate. Amion said he enjoys getting deep into a count with opposing pitchers, crowding the plate to get hit or earn a walk.

“Amion has done a much better job this year because of his approach at the plate,” Melendez said. “He’s going middle-away at the plate, staying inside the baseball, and has been able to get on base. Now the difference between us this year and last year is that we haven’t had to steal a lot of bases. The guys behind him are doing a very good job and getting him in scoring position and getting the big base hit for him to score.”

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Alabama State Black and Gold Game: Offense hard to find

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“We have a real good defense, if y’all didn’t know it,” Cyrus said. “We’ve just got to get more aggressive. They have some good leaders on their side. We’ve got to have somebody to step in and take that leadership role so they can take over the offense and pick us up when we’re down.”

The first-team offense alternated possessions with the second-team offense for much of the game and a watered-down offensive attack, that was missing injured quarterback Daniel Duhart, was no match for a defense that could be the best in the conference next season.

“I think we can be better,” Berry said. “Not saying that we’re not good now, but regardless of what you saw today, there’s always something to improve on.”

They were close to perfect on Saturday, surrendering only one first down on a pass from Quinteris Toppings to Bell on the second play of the second half. The rest of the offensive production came against the reserves, with the first-team offense driving 60 yards for a touchdown against the second-team defense late in the first half. Three consecutive passes from Toppings to Bell moved the ball 38 yards and a 10-yard scramble by Toppings set up a 10-yard touchdown run off left tackle by Andre Kincey, who finished with 37 yards on 11 carries to lead all rushers.

That drive would account for four of the five first downs gained by the first-team offense.

“I thought we did pretty good overall,” said Toppings, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 82 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “We picked it up in the second half. In the first half, we just pretty much laid down, but we picked it up in the second half. We’ve got some things to work on over the summer. We’ve got to improve in all aspects.”

The first-team offense picked up just one first down and 22 yards on 11 plays and three possessions in the second half. The second-team offense, battling the second-team defense, drove 50 yards in three plays for another touchdown with the only real offensive highlight, a 31-yard sprint down the left sideline by Earl Lucas after catching a short pass from Toppings in a mixture of first- and second-team offensive players by offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss.

“There was one other time we threw it to Earl, and I think he dropped it,” Barlow said. “Coach does this during the game. He has on his list, ‘ways to get it to Earl, ways to get it to Bell.’ This is spring ball, so he didn’t have a list like that today.”

The final 25 plays of the game allowed the reserves to play, primarily with Sir Jackson running the offense. Jackson started the game at receiver and pulled in a couple of passes, then switched to quarterback late in the game and led the third-team offense to an Alex Louthan field goal.

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Alabama State notebook: Frustrated Duhart sits out spring game

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“Yeah, my scoring system was off.”

Former players turn out for game: The best talent on the field at the end of the game wasn’t the current players, it was the former players who showed up for the game.

NFL veteran quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was on hand, along with Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Terren Jones, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Saeed Lee, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Greg Jenkins and 2013 star Isaiah Crowell, who is awaiting the NFL draft next month.

Strip and score: Linebackers Deontrelle Silmon and Kourtney Berry collaborated on scoring a defensive touchdown in Saturday’s Black and Gold spring game.

Silmon, a junior from Lanett, ripped the ball out of tailback Malcolm Cyrus’ hands as he was being tackled and going to the ground.

“He got inside of me, but I caught him from the back and just stripped it,” Silmon said.

Berry, a sophomore from Merrillville, Ind., picked up the loose ball and ran down the sidelines for a 27-yard touchdown in the first half.

“Once I saw the ball popped up, I just grabbed it,” Berry said. “I just saw the end zone and I said, ‘OK, go ahead and run.’ This time, I didn’t have my brace. So nothing was stopping me or holding me back.”

Team awards: After the spring game, Barlow gave out awards to several players with one being junior defensive end Antonio Humphrey of Montgomery.

The G.W. Carver graduate was named the most improved defensive player from spring practice.

“He’s stepped it up for us,” Barlow said before awarding Humphrey. “He’s going to be able to help us.”

Bowser received the “Peter Rabbit” award for non-scholarship players who played with energy and enthusiasm. Bowser had an interception in the spring game.

Junior Marcus Owens (Rico Wells Award), sophomore Andre Hammon II (most improved offensive player), junior Damian Love (offensive MVP) of Millbrook and sophomore Trey Jenkins (defensive MVP) also received awards.

Ponder suffers shoulder injury: The only injury sustained in the Black and Gold Game was to Black cornerback Dionte Ponder, who left the game with a separated shoulder after he was hit from behind by teammate Daerius Washington on a tackle of Cyrus.

After the game, Ponder’s left arm was in a sling, but he remained upbeat despite the injury.

“They gave me a little bit of medicine to help clear it up, so I’m not in pain,” he said.

Bunny hop: There’s a reason Toppings kept slightly hopping in the air when taking a shotgun snap Saturday.

Toppings said he has a jammed finger and hopped back to ease the pain from catching the ball snapped back to him.

“I was trying to take the pressure off it, so I would hop back and jump back and try to catch the ball,” Toppings said. “It’s been aching since Thursday.”

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