COVINGTON -- Ryan Spikes made the most of his sophomore campaign at Alcovy.
Entering the spring season already boasting a college commitment to the University of Tennessee, a decision the young sophomore made last November, and a successful trip to Panama last summer to compete in the U-15 World Cup for Team USA, the pressure to produce for the Tigers was towering.
With a new head coach in place at Alcovy in Jimmy Hughes and a program desperate for a taste of success, Spikes came through. More so than even he expected.
“Going into the season, I was really just trying to stay solid,” Spikes said. “Last season, I started off really slow and didn’t hit well at all. So this year, I was just trying to stay consistent.”
In his first four games to start the season, Spikes held a .615 batting average on eight hits. In that span, his eight RBIs led the area, as did his seven runs scored and three home runs.
Spikes credited his hot start to the season to several things, including his stint with Team USA, where he played for and around some of the country’s top players and coaches.
“Team USA helped me with a whole bunch of things,” Spikes said. “I got a different perspective from high-level coaches that have played professionally. They helped me critic the small things that really help with hitting.”
Through his first 12 games, Spikes had a hit in 11 of them. Of those 11 games with a hit, six went down in the scorebook as multi-hit performances. Two more home runs against Stockbridge on Feb. 27 gave the young star five for the season.
“I think I improved on making more solid contact with the ball,” Spikes said going into the season. “Last year, I didn’t get that many solid hits. I was hitting a lot of soft stuff, just barely getting hits. I got stronger this past offseason and tried to get faster. I worked on my hand eye coordination. I worked on everything, really.”
After helping the Tigers to a 7-4 record through the Tigers’ first 11 games, their best start to a season in quite some time, Spikes continued to hit for a high average well into the start of Region 3-AAAAAA play. And while as a team the success began to slip, Spikes’ success did not.
Failing to make the 6A state playoffs as a team, Spikes’ season ended with an area-best .486 batting average on 35 hits. His on-base percentage (.606) and OPS (1.550) also both led the area by a wide margin.
Of the Tigers’ 138 runs scored on the season, Spikes played a part in 32 percent of them. His 17 extra-base hits were second in the area only to Heritage’s Cole Smith, who finished with 20 in 10 more games played.
His eight doubles and two triples and 19 walks also led the Tigers.
From an expectations standpoint heading into the season, Spikes said he eclipsed his preseason goals, without a doubt.
“I think I did,” Spikes said. “I try to set my goals high and always try to break them, but I really didn’t think I was going to hit this well. Everything just worked out well. There was a little bit of pressure. I couldn’t get too high or too low. I just tried to do me, perform the way that I know that I can and not let all of the pressure get to me.”
Without an ample amount of scouting reports to go off of at the high school level, Spikes said his ability to pay close attention and remain a student of the game helped elevate his game in 2019.
“I feel like my in-game adjustments are pretty strong,” Spikes said. “When I’m in the dugout, I’m all into the game. I try to stay on the fence and read pitchers’ sequences and try to read what he does on different pitches. I try to see if they tip off what pitches they are about to throw, when in the count they’re going to throw certain pitches. I just try to do all of that stuff and try to take advantage of that at the plate.”
Known as a right-handed hitter capable of hitting to all fields, Spikes’ favorite MLB player doesn’t come as a surprise to Georgia natives.
“My favorite player is Ronald Acuna, who plays for the Atlanta Braves,” Spikes said. “Even though I don’t play outfield like that, I like his style of play. He keeps his energy up, day in and day out. So I try to model my game after him.”
While Spikes’ tremendous offensive season for the Tigers failed to carry over to the state playoffs, helping his team take a step in the right direction was more than satisfactory, he said.
“The season was very fun,” Spikes said. “Helping my teammates all over the field, seeing my teammates happy. It was all really fun. In previous years, the heart aspect wasn’t there all the way. But this season was kind of the turning point.”
Heading into the 2019 offseason, Spikes has quickly switched out his Alcovy uniform for a Team Elite one. Hoping to work on all areas of his game this summer for one of the state’s premiere travel ball programs, Spikes said it is still sometimes hard to believe how quickly his career has taken off.
“It still kind of blows me away,” Spikes said. “I didn’t really think that it would happen this early. I guess if you make things happen on the field, people will start to want you. I wouldn’t really say that I’m surprised about it, but it really is a cool thing to be this high at an early age.”
At the young age of 16, the game of baseball has always held a special place in Spikes’ heart. Around the age of 10, it was then that he knew he had the potential to play at a high level.
“I started out at the REC department,” Spikes said. “I played every sport. Basketball, soccer, baseball. I tried all of them and didn’t really like them like that. I picked up a baseball and loved it from the beginning.”
As the years passed and the talent level increased, Spikes has found himself on an upwards trajectory with no end in sight.
“I was OK,” Spikes said of his early playing days. “I wasn’t the best player, so I kept working at it and working at it. I just got better and things started showing. I would say around 10 years old when I started on my first travel ball team that was out of the local area. I used to play for the Atlanta Angels and they were always known as a team that was really good. My first year with that team, I tried to stand out.”
With not many immediate family members having a successful run in the sport, Spikes said that to be the first to reach this level is very special.
“My uncle, grandpa’s and cousins all played,” Spikes said. “My cousin played at a junior college, but really I was the only one that has taken it seriously. I think it’s special that I’m trying to make a mark playing baseball in my family.”
With two more years left of high school baseball, Spikes is well on his way to leaving Alcovy as one of, if not the best hitter the program has ever seen in its 13-year history.