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Hilltoppers, Cyclones, Bucs favorites in NET baseball

Douglas Fritz • Mar 14, 2020 at 1:51 AM

Spring sports are just now getting their footing but face a likely disruption because of the novel coronavirus.

Many teams have already played multiple games, so here’s a look at some of the standouts in Northeast Tennessee.

Science Hill is favored to win the Big 7 Conference, Elizabethton is the top pick in the Three Rivers and University High is expected to claim the Watauga Valley crown.

Included are top hitters, pitchers, defensive players and coach’s comment.

BIG 7 CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

1. Science Hill

2. Daniel Boone

3. Dobyns-Bennett

4. Tennessee High

5. David Crockett

6. Cherokee

7. Volunteer

SCIENCE HILL

Top hitters: Caleb Marmo (Sr.), Matthew Levi (Sr.) and Landon Slemp (Sr.)

Top pitchers: Slemp and Cole Torbett (So.)

Best defensive players: Marmo (cf) and Slemp (ss)

Coach Ryan Edwards: “For us to be successful this season, we need to develop our pitching depth.”

DOBYNS-BENNETT

Top hitters: Jackson McDavid (Sr.), Derek Thurston (Sr.) and Aaron Farley (Sr.)

Top pitchers: McDavid and Sebastian Fugate (Sr.)

Best defensive players: Jaden Alderson (of, Sr.) and Dalton Harkleroad (utility, Sr.)

Coach Ryan Wagner: “We need to pitch consistently, play solid defense and get timely hits.”

DANIEL BOONE

Top hitters: Brody Goodman (cf, Sr.), Cade Elliott (1b, Sr.) and Colby Backus (of, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Elliott and Ryne Haney (Sr.)

Best defensive players: Goodman, Elliott and Backus

Coach Scott Hagy: “We need to stay healthy and do all the little things it takes to win. We must embrace the challenge and not run from expectations.”

DAVID CROCKETT

Top hitters: Cade Larkins (cf, Sr.) Nolan Miller (if, Sr.) and Cody Wheeley (1b, Jr.)

Top pitchers: Miller and Wheeley

Best defensive player: Garret Leonard (ss, So.)

Coach Spencer Street: “We need to limit big innings and put pressure on the defense. The top of the order needs to get on base for the three through four guys.”

TENNESSEE HIGH

Top hitters: Brayden Blevins (3b, So.) and Daniel Hicks (1B, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Cole Presson (Jr.) and Lance Tudor (Sr.)

Best defensive player: C.J. Henley (ss, Jr.)

Coach Preston Roberts: “We need to throw strikes and play clean infield defense. Our offense is producing early and we expect that to continue. We have a relatively young and inexperienced group, but they are talented. I am looking forward to coaching these guys. They work hard and have bought in from day one.”

VOLUNTEER

Top hitters: Aaron Willis (c, dh, Sr.) and Caleb Trent (1b, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Tucker Bellamy (Jr.) and Ty Burnette (Sr.)

Best defensive players: Rylan Greene (of, Sr.), Peyton Derrick (of, Sr.) and Brody Cloud (3b, Jr.).

Coach Michael Castle: “We have to throw strikes and make routine plays. We need to play hard and be aggressive on the bases. We will be counting on a lot of underclassmen on the mound.”

CHEROKEE

Top hitters: Dylan Johnson (c, Sr.), Ryan Morgan (of, Sr.), Trent Price (of, Jr.)

Top pitchers: Jesse Forgety (Sr.), Lane Helton (Jr.) and Luke Condra (Jr.)

Best defensive player: Jackson Davenport (2b, ss, So.)

Coach Todd Pait: “We have the talent to compete with anyone, but we have to come together as a team and start playing with some confidence. I look forward to seeing some significant growth this season.”

THREE RIVERS CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

1. Elizabethton

2. Sullivan East

3. Sullivan South

4. Unicoi County

5. Sullivan Central

6. Johnson County

7. Happy Valley

ELIZABETHTON

Top hitters: Evan Carter (Sr.), Karson Dillard (Sr.), Jaden Anderson (Jr.), Bryson Rollins (So.)

Top pitchers: Carter, Ashton Wilson (Jr.)

Best defensive players: Dillard (utility), Carter (of), Gage Treadway (c, So.)

Coach Ryan Presnell: “We have to deal with an incredible amount of adversity from our schedule. ... Our pitching depth will be tested beyond belief, but we believe when we arrive in the postseason we will have lots of pitchers with innings in meaningful games and hitters who have seen the widest breadth of high school pitching.”

SULLIVAN SOUTH

Top hitters: Peyton Stanley (rf, Sr.), Eli Jennings (ss, Jr.)

Top pitchers: Stanley, Jacob Light (Sr.)

Best defensive players: Sean Reed (3b, So.), Brody Ratliff (1b, So.)

Coach Anthony Richardson: “We graduated seven starters. We are very inexperienced and just need to play. It’s a hard working group, very excited to watch them get better as the season goes along.”

SULLIVAN EAST

Top hitters: Perry Casaday (ss, Sr.), Dylan Bartley (3b, So.)

Top pitchers: Luke Hale (Jr.), Seth Chafin, Dylan White (Sr.), Bartley

Best defensive players: Casaday, White (cf)

Coach Mike Breuninger: “We lost a few key people to graduation. People playing those positions will be inexperienced. If they get better, we will be successful.”

SULLIVAN CENTRAL

Top hitters: Trey Sells (cf, Sr.), Isaac Hood (ss, Sr.), Logan Bowers (c, So.)

Top pitchers: Sells, Ethan Bombailey (Sr.)

Best defensive players: Mason Buckland (lf, Sr.), Connor Wilson (utility, Jr.)

Coach Clay Colley: “We need to hit the ball in order to be successful. We will throw strikes and be good enough defensively, but we need to put up run support for our pitchers. That will be the key to the season.”

UNICOI COUNTY

Top hitters: Gavyn Sawyer (ss, So.), Valentin Batrez (c, Fr.), Peyton Whitson (of, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Whitson, Kaleb Metcalf (Jr.)

Best defensive player: Gavyn Sawyer (ss, So.)

Coach Chad Gillis: “We need to compete every pitch, both offensively and defensively. The rest will fall into place.”

HAPPY VALLEY

Top hitters: Zac Workman (c, p, So.), Jacob Absher (ss, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Eli Ayers (Jr.)

Best defensive players: Andrew Little (cf, So.), Dylan Willis (2b, Sr.)

Coach Todd Caldwell: “We are going to have to take care of the small details of the game. We must be aggressive offensively and not sit back and wait for something to happen. We need to create our own opportunities.”

JOHNSON COUNTY

Top hitters: Matt Mowery (3b, Jr.), Ben Howard (ss, Jr.), Asa Lewis (1b, So.), Petie Pavusek (c, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Howard, Bradley Livorsi (Sr.)

Best defensive player: Pavusek

Coach Pete Pavusek: “We need to hit and play good defense early in the season. Pitching has the advantage right now with the weather being so bad.”

WATAUGA VALLEY CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

1. University High

2. North Greene

3. Sullivan North

4. Hampton

5. Unaka

6. Cloudland

UNIVERSITY HIGH

Top hitters: Brant Hare (1b, Sr.), Cade Pollock (ss, So.), Jacob Pealer (2b, So.), Kaleb Meredith (cf, Jr.)

Top pitchers: Meredith, Hare, Greer Barnett (Sr.), Pealer

Best defensive player: Hare (only three errors in three years)

Coach Josh Petty: “The program needs for some players to step up and help solidify the back end of the rotation. We also need guys to fight for and accept certain roles that help our program meet expectations of competing at the state level.”

SULLIVAN NORTH

Top hitters: Tyler DePriest (2b, Jr.), Braydon Wilhoit (ss, c, Sr.), Chandler Raleigh (3b, Jr.), Dale Potter (ss, Sr.)

Top pitchers: Wilhoit

Coach Steve Dixon: “Wilhoit was 9-2 last year with an ERA of 1.05 and a WHIP of 0.72. We should be solid in the infield, but we are going to have to develop three outfielders to replace three very good outfielders who graduated last year. It has been shaky in preseason.”

UNAKA

Top hitters: Nolan Bradley (cf, Sr.) and Daniel Shearl (c, So.)

Top pitchers: Luke Carr (Jr.), Joe Slagle (So.)

Coach Tee Blevins: “We need to continue to grow every day on the field.”

HAMPTON

Top pitchers: Josh Owens (Jr.), Dalton Rouse (Sr.), Morgan Lyons (So.) and Caleb Royston (So.)

Coach Nick Perkins: “For us to have the best opportunity to be successful, we have to put the bat on the ball up and down the lineup. We are competing in a conference with three or four schools where baseball is their top male sport. We are aware of the challenge before us, but I am blessed to get to work daily with some of the finest young men I have ever been associated with.”

CLOUDLAND

Top hitters: Collin Morgan (So.), Jordan Issacs (Sr.), Hunter Blair (Sr.)

Top pitchers: Elisha Guinn (Sr.), Collin Morgan (So.)

Best defensive player: Guinn (ss)

Coach Nathaniel Patterson: “We have to do the little things right, not make errors and throw strikes. There is a lot of work for us to do to be better.”

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