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Watauga Valley baseball offered plenty of promise in 2020

Douglas Fritz • Apr 30, 2020 at 1:00 PM

High school baseball teams didn’t get a chance to finish, but Watauga Valley Conference coaches stressed the high points of the truncated season.

Here’s a look at what each of them had to say.

Josh Petty, University High

“I think we were capable of having another 25-win season. I felt real good about the pitching staff, and we didn’t have holes in the field at all.”

Petty said he also liked his team’s chances of success down the road if it reached Murfreesboro for a third straight year because this was the first year all of the private schools were out of the public school division.

“I felt we could go down there and win a couple of games,” he said.

Petty had six seniors on his roster, including three-year starter Brant Hare at first base.

“He was a big part of the success and a team leader,” Petty said.

Hare said he enjoyed the ride.

“The past three seasons have produced countless memories and much team success, and I was looking forward to more this spring,” he said. “I am thankful not only for the opportunity to play, but also for the support of the coaches, teammates and family.”

Other seniors were: Briley Townsend (second-year starter at catcher), Greer Barnett (“he won a game against Chuckey-Doak before we had the basketball guys”), Zach Rice (“started some last year in left field”), Marshall Fleenor and Juan Rojas.

“We had a good mix of seniors, Kaleb Meredith as a junior and a good mix of sophomores.”

Steve Dixon, Sullivan North

“We were really looking forward to this season. It was going to be our next-to-last one, and it’s a lost opportunity we can never get back. We have been very blessed recently with a very dedicated, great bunch of kids. It did not matter if it was a 100-degree day in June or a snow day in the middle of winter, they always showed up and wanted to be there. That's not always the case with teams. They have been so much fun to be around.”

After a strong year in 2019, Dixon said 2020 was expected to be better.

“We were off to a 3-0 start. We only had two seniors, but they were two good ones. I really thank them for their dedication the last four-plus years.”

At the forefront was All-State performer Braydon Wilhoit, who was also the Watauga Valley player of the year in 2019. He was joined by Dale Potter.

“Potter would have also been one of the best, most versatile players in the area in any classification.”

Dixon said the hopes of turning toward 2021 carry reminders of 2020.

“We only get one shot at a final season in school history. It will be bittersweet, and it makes this lost season so hard to handle after being a North coach for so many years — knowing it is coming to a fast, final end.

“We will have another great group of 10 seniors next year, led by returning starters Tyler Depriest, Chandler Raleigh, Jonah Leslie, David Howell, Brayden Ketron, Damion Allen, Seth Davis and Kam Williams. We will also have juniors Joe Flanigan, Tristan Jobe and Korey McMurray.

“I want to thank my assistants who are very dedicated and do a great job coaching: Curt Arnold, Jody Dingus and Chase Arnold. They worked hard since last June, preparing for this season.”

Nick Perkins, Hampton

“I am proud of my players and coaches for all the time, effort and attention to detail they put in, which led to our good start (3-0 with three starters still in basketball). We’ll never know. We play in a tough conference, but we feel we had the talent, skill and depth to have a memorable season. We are excited about our players coming back as well.”

Seniors on the roster were: Dalton Rouse, Weston Street, Josh Stout, Landen Street, Mitchell Tolley, Hunter Haynes, Scott Mignault, Elijah Smith, Andrew Smith, Noah Laughters and Caleb Oaks.

Tee Blevins, Unaka

“This year we were very young with only two seniors: Austin Drew and Nolan Bradley.

“We played five games the first week and you could tell we were very inexperienced but played with a lot of heart.”

Blevins said steps were made in the opening games.

“The improvement I saw in the first week and the leadership of those two young men would have been totally different at the end of the season because they were learning so much and working extremely hard, and things were starting to fall in place.”

Nathaniel Patterson, Cloudland

“We hated the season had to end so early. We had played five games, and I believe we had gotten better every game.

“Up on the mountain we didn’t get many full practices before we started playing our games. But I really felt we had a chance to win a few games and really surprise some teams by the end of the year.”

Cloudland’s four seniors were: Hunter Blair, Jordan Issacs, Elisha Guinn and Dave Ramey.

“All four of those guys really worked hard and made it easy for a new coach to come in and feel welcomed. I am really looking forward to next year with the kids we have coming back. I can’t wait to get out there and change the culture of baseball at Cloudland.”

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