Alexander coach Chris Brown had full confidence that Justin Culpepper would have a spectacular senior season for the Cougars.
But Brown will admit he is somewhat surprised at how good of a year the outfielder is producing.
Heading into today’s Region 5-AAAAAA championship game against South Paulding, Culpepper has emerged as one of the top hitters in the region.
Culpepper is hitting .421, good enough for second on the team in 76 at-bats while leading the team with 25 hits.
“I knew just was going to be good but I didn’t see his batting average being that high,” Brown said. “He is definitely exceeding my expectations and he has solidified our lineup.”
Brown asked Culpepper to switch from the No. 4 and 5 hole to the leadoff spot.
“Justin is setting the table for us as the leadoff hitter,” Brown said. “He is really setting the pace because he is a hard worker.”
Culpepper said it wasn’t that hard to make the adjustment to the leadoff role although he does feel some pressure to produce.
In addition to his batting, Culpepper is second on the team with 31 runs scored. He has also drawn 10 walks and has 10 stolen bases, which is second on the team.
“It has been a big adjustment but coach approached me with the ideal this season,” Culpepper said. “I was willing to do what I could to help the team. I know how I am, and I knew if I worked at it that I could make it work. The biggest challenge is to get on base and make things happen. It is not that much pressure because I knew I could figure it out.”
In addition to making the switch in the batting lineup, Culpepper had to make the switch in fielding positions. He went from playing right field last season to the left fielder position.
“Coach has a lot of confidence in me,” Culpepper said. “He has trust and belief in me to get the job done. I think the biggest thing is that I’m deadly because of my speed. My job is to get on base and trust that my teammates can help me out.”
So far, it has been working for the Cougars.
Alexander is 21-4 overall and 14-0 in the region. The Cougars just have to win one of two games from South Paulding to clinch the region championship and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming state playoffs.
“We just have to keep focusing on what we do best, and continue to play unselfish,” Culpepper said. “We are having a lot of fun and this is like a family.”
While Culpepper is enjoying his final season at Alexander, he also has his sights set on the future. He said he will either attend North Georgia or West Georgia Technical College to continue to play baseball.
Like Brown, Culpepper’s teammates are also confident in his ability.
“He has really stepped up in the leadoff role,” senior first baseman Jason Hinchman said. “Justin is doing a good job of getting on base. I knew he was a very good athlete so we wasn’t worried about him in his new role. You can tell he put in the work in the offseason and that is why he is producing.”