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Plenty of positives from lost Big 7 baseball season

Douglas Fritz • Apr 26, 2020 at 6:30 PM

High school baseball was a season lost in 2020, but the Big 7 Conference’s coaches took time this past week to stress the positive aspects of what might have been.


Coach Ryan Wagner: “I believe our team was capable of very good things. We had several guys back who started for multiple years, and they provided good leadership in our preseason and early season.”

The Indians were in the process of figuring out how things would fit together.

“We were starting four guys from last year, but on opening day we had four sophomores and one freshman in the lineup,” Wagner noted.

With the number of seniors on the team, Wagner said the end was a tough pill to swallow.

“Ten seniors in one class staying together for four years tells you their dedication and love for Tribe baseball,” he said. “Our staff enjoyed this group. They were very coachable and wanted to be successful. The relationships we developed over the last four years is tremendous.”

Wagner also complimented his players’ social media posts.

“They talked about what Tribe baseball meant to them,” he noted, “and their words mean everything.”

Individually, Wagner pointed to Jackson McDavid as “an outstanding leader on the mound and at the plate”; Derek Thurston as “an outstanding young man, student and obviously baseball player”; and Aaron Farley as “a three-year starter at catcher, his leadership on the field was insurmountable.”

Also on the list of seniors for the Indians were Dalton Harkleroad, Sebastian Fugate, Matthew Moore, Jaden Alderson, Champ Wagner, Jacob Dayton and Kyler Banks.


Coach Ryan Edwards: “Our team goal as always was to make it to the state tournament, and with the seniors we had in place it was a realistic goal.”

Wake Forest signee Caleb Marmo, a returning all-state player, manned center field. Landon Slemp and Matthew Levi were also big parts of the winning equation.

“Slemp was our everyday shortstop and started at pitcher in last year’s sectional and first game of the state tournament. Levi was our returning 3-hole hitter,” Edwards noted.

Four other seniors were in line to make an impact, Edwards said, calling Hunter Phillips “a solid contact hitter and slick defender at first base”; Gehrig Carcich “a run-producing left fielder”; Emory& Henry commit Josh Wooten a “utility player and scrappy hitter”; and Clay McKenzie “our bullpen side-arm specialist and team spiritual leader.”

Edwards called it a fun group with a lot of talent.

“I know this group will do well at their next adventures,” he said. “Although it’s very disappointing not to be able to go through the 2020 spring with these young men, I will cherish the memories we made from their previous seasons as Hilltoppers.”


Coach Scott Hagy: “I expected to get down the road. I based that on teams I’ve seen in the past from here to Middle Tennessee. This group had the entire package. It was deep and could hit and run. And obviously we had the big lefty (Tennessee signee Cade Elliot) on the mound. The pitching staff, as deep as it was, we felt really good about our chances.”

Elliot tossed a one-hit shutout and struck out 10 in the season opener against Elizabethton.

“He was ready to go. He is such a good kid,” Hagy said. “I feel so bad because he put so much into it.”

Other keys included right fielder Colby Backus (“he had gotten off to a tremendous start”) and leadoff man and center fielder Brody Goodman (“those two guys set the tone at the plate”). Backus is headed to Walters State and Goodman is going to Roane State.

Other seniors were K.C. Viccio, Chase McGonigle (“his success in basketball carried over to baseball”), Chase Chandler, Dustin Stanton, Cade Norris and Milligan-bound Ryne Haney.

“It was a real good senior class. I think the biggest attribute was they transitioned well from Rob (Hoover) to me and handled it very well,” Hagy added. “I couldn’t ask for any better effort than what I got.”


Coach Spencer Street: “We feel like we had a chance to compete with anybody. This team was hard working and dedicated to leaving this program better than how they found it.

“I had several leaders who embraced their role and made sure things were done correctly. Our guys knew we had to show up every day and continue to work and do whatever was necessary to achieve our goals.”

Street said the Pioneers had a great group of eight seniors: Cade Larkins, Nolan Miller, Kaleb Swanson, Isaac Stephens, Gavin Cloutier, Holden Fannon, Arien Lane and Blaine Greer.

“These guys led the charge and made it very enjoyable to be at the park every day. We can’t thank them enough for the experiences of 2020,” Street added. “No matter how the year ended up, these guys made our program better.”


Coach Michael Castle: “We started with eight seniors and all contributed to our program. They were good leaders and better young men. I felt like we had come a long way with this group and had a chance to have a good year.”

Volunteer’s seniors were Peyton Derrick, Landon Carver, Rylan Greene, Ty Burnette, Jesse Rollins, Caleb Trent, Aaron Wills and Sam Britton.

“They will all be missed. And with their leadership and attitude toward the game, I hope we will see our program adopt a positive and team atmosphere,” Castle said. “Thanks to all for giving their all. Congrats on your success.”


Coach Todd Pait: “I believe our team could have had a breakout season. I love the way we competed in the scrimmages and thought we could build towards the district tournament and shock some people. This team will always be remembered as a perfect example of ‘play every game like it’s your last.’ ”

Pait said the lost season might impact seniors like Jesse Forgety, Dylan Johnson and Ryan Morgan.

“I think they would have had huge years and went on to play at the next level. They are kind of left in limbo now, and that is extremely unfortunate and unfair,” the coach added. “Those three guys could have played for anyone and they will be missed for sure.”


Coach Preston Roberts: “After one of the most successful seasons in program history and a large senior class graduating, a lot of people expected a slight rebuilding year. But the four seniors we had (Daniel Hicks, Lance Tudor, Zach Anderson and Reece Proffitt) were determined not to let that happen. Their leadership during the offseason was tremendous. They worked hard and did whatever we asked of them.”

Roberts said some had waited patiently for their time to be an everyday starter.

“In preseason scrimmages and the first week of the season they did not disappoint,” he said. “They were playing at a very high level, and I just hate it for them because I know two of them will never play the game of baseball again.

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