Former Smiths Station Panthers help Wallace JC to conference lead

By Chad Dixon

Smiths Station’s Dalton Sinquefield and Blake Rivera were two of the key components to the 2015 Class 7A state baseball championship for the Panthers and the tandem have been two major factors for the Wallace Hanceville Lions this spring. The Lions have compiled a 27-5 overall record and are 7-1 in the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC), which leads the North division. 

Familiarity has been comforting for the two entering their freshman season. “It feels good to just have that guy that I can relate to; if I have a bad game or he doesn’t pitch as good as he can, then we know how to pick each other up,” Sinquefield said. 

Sinquefield is sitting at the top of the ACCC in many offensive categories. He leads the conference with 13 doubles, 37 runs scored, 41 RBI and 20 extra base hits. He is also tied for third with six homers and ranks fourth in hits (41) and slugging (.718). He has tried to have a calm approach hitting second in the Lions’ lineup.

“I have just been trying to stay within myself and not try to do too much. Just being relaxed at the plate and confident in what I can do,” Sinquefield added. He enters the weekend with a  .398 batting average.

Sinquefield was 2-for-3 on March 26 when the Lions won their 27th game of the year and more significantly, notched the 1,000th win at Wallace State for Head Coach Randy Putman. They defeated Calhoun CC 10-0 at home. Rivera was on the mound and was dominant. He threw five complete innings, allowed two hits and struck out ten with zero walks. Rivera has topped out at 97 mph with his fastball. Rivera has been effective as a freshman in the ACCC and new there would be a new challenge. 

“The hitters are a lot better throughout the entire lineup and you have to be able to pitch and not just hope to blow fastballs by everyone,” Rivera said. 

Two seasons removed from a state title, it still motivates him.  

“Winning a state title was amazing and I think that it helps make you more competitive; we had to play in a lot of high pressure games and be tough to win them. I think it helped me be more of a competitor.”

Rivera currently is tied for third in the ACCC with five wins, a 1.08 ERA and an 11.88 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. His 44 strikeouts rank fifth in the conference. His command has been very good in his freshman season. He has only issued seven walks through 33 1/3rd innings pitched. 

Both players would like to continue their baseball dreams past Wallace State.  

“My goal is to have a great year or two and get a scholarship from a big time school,” Sinquefield stated. 

Rivera hopes to pursue his dreams after two years with at the JUCO level. “I hope to be drafted out the school I am at now, if not, then I will go play at an SEC school and try to get drafted out of there,” he said. 

Both former Panthers are off to great starts to their freshman seasons at Wallace State and are showing why they were two of the reasons they were able to help Smiths Station win the first ever Class 7A baseball state title in the state.