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Four former Red Devils play college ball

VINA — The Vina High School Red Devils had some difficulty when it came to boys’ sports this past school year.

Both the football team and boys basketball team failed to post a win due to the school’s small size, low number of athletes and schedule difficulty.

The baseball program has been the exception for Vina. In both 2012 and 2013 the team fell just short of the playoffs, and by only one game in the case of this year.

The Red Devils have been at odds for the past few years with Hackleburg and Tharptown to see which two teams would make the postseason.

While Vina fell just short of the playoffs in the past two years, one thing the small school does not lack is player representation at the collegiate level.

Head coach Greg Hamilton currently has four former players, from the senior level to incoming freshman, that are signed with college programs.

“Brent Townsend will be a senior at Blue Mountain College this year,” Hamilton said.

“Morgan McCarley is at the University of North Alabama. He’ll be a senior this year.

“Nic Schmittou will be a sophomore at Tougaloo College, and Brody Roberts will be an incoming freshman at Blue Mountain College.”

Having four players playing at the collegiate level says many things about the program and the coaching staff, especially coming from such a small school.

“It means a lot to me,” Hamilton said. “I’m proud of how hard they’ve worked.

“It’s not about me and it never will be. I like to see the kids be successful, and I’m glad they’re getting to play college ball.

“Hopefully they will be successful in life as well, and I know they will be. All of our players will be. That’s something we strive for.

“We are small, and people really don’t understand how small we are. It says a lot for how hard they work and have this many playing college ball.

“We’ve had eight players sign college baseball scholarships since ’04. We’ve never had this many playing at one time.

“No one really understands how small we truly are. A big graduating class for us is 20.”

Coach Hamilton had each of those guys play for him from middle school throughout each of their respective senior years, so he is well aware of what each of them is capable of on the diamond.

“Brody pounds the strike zone,” he said.

“He’s left-handed, he can throw it in the 80s and he can control his breaking ball.

“I expect him to play a lot. He doesn’t walk a lot of batters.

“Brent Townsend has played every single year he has been at Blue Mountain. He has moved to different positions since he’s been there, some second and some third, and his coach told me they’re moving him to the outfield this year and expect him to be a solid starter.

“Schmittou started as a catcher as a true freshman, but on some of the rest days they moved him to the infield like he did for us. He played some third base for Tougaloo.

“McCarley started at Bevill State Community College. The program was shut down, just like many of the JUCOs in Alabama.

“We took him to Northeast [Mississippi Community College] to try him out, and they signed him that day. He pitched for them, and when he left Northeast they signed him at UNA.

“He had a great fall camp and pitched some for UNA this year. He’s increased his velocity a lot; he’s throwing in the low 90s, so there’s more upside for him.”

Having four guys currently in the collegiate ranks does wonders for the confidence of the players still at Vina, but the biggest challenge each year for Hamilton is finding the guys to replace those players who have gone one to bigger schools.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “The kids take the success we have had even though we’re so small, and they believe in what we’re selling.

“They work hard, and I expect this year to be no different. We have an opportunity for one or two to sign this year.

“All of this success also takes place in the classroom, because without the grades you cannot go to them.”

While McCarley, Townsend, Schmittou and Roberts may have left Vina High School, their legacy still inspires those younger guys that played with them as Red Devils.

“They had a tremendous impact,” Hamilton said. “All of them pitched and played other positions.

Their work ethic spilled over to others, and that is still carrying on today into our summer work right now.”