JCHS baseball still swingin' through the summer months
By Jonathan PleasantPlaying an abbreviated summer season, the JCHS Longhorn baseball team got the opportunity to welcome some talented new faces at a recent home game match up against the Ford Town Marlins, a travel team from the Kingsport area. Made up of players from Sullivan South, Sullivan East, and even as far away as John Battle, the Longhorns had their hands full but put forth a solid effort that Coach Nicholas Perkins couldn’t help but appreciate.
“There were some positives,” Perkins said after the game. “I thought Nathaniel Graybeal had a good base hit to left field and showed some good effort in left field on defense. We have a young team now and there is going to be some opportunity for the younger guys to get to play because we don’t have a lot of upper classmen. Nick Whitener accounted well for himself considering it was his first ever high school action. I’ve been working with him off and on since he was in fifth grade and I’ve always looked forward to coaching him. He’s baseball savvy, has a love for the game and I’m excited to have him in our program. We just didn’t locate. They hit the ball well and we didn’t locate pitches very well.”
Whitener was just one of several incoming freshmen players that got their first taste of high school baseball, but unfortunately they came in under fire. The Marlins had a very strong batting lineup jumping off with two runs in the first inning and piling on four more in the second. The Longhorns changed up their pitching staff, starting first with Brandon Vannoy and eventually putting in rising senior Sam Thomas. Both pitchers held their own but a few costly mistakes allowed the Marlins to climb on the scoreboard.
Things could have been much worse but the defense did an excellent job at the bases, including one tremendous catch by Sam Thomas at third that flew in straight from the bat. The Longhorns were also able to muster up some solid double plays that ended both the first and fourth innings.
Regrettably, as strong as the defense was they could not compensate for a general lack of contact at bat. Adam Worley was the only player from Johnson County to complete a run, taking home in the third inning off a hit by Blade Hampton. Hampton eventually moved on to third with Sam Thomas on second, but neither were able to finish their run before the Longhorns gained a third out.
Whitener proved to be one of the more consistent hitters, reaching as far as third base and getting to first three times with help from Nathaniel Graybeal, who also had a couple of solid knocks. Despite these few advances, Johnson County could not pull together a true offensive rally and as the game wore on chances of a win began to slip away. By the sixth inning the score was 11-1 in the Marlins favor, prompting the umpires to call the game early.
Although the final outcome was far from what the Longhorn’s fans hoped for, the game still proved to be a good opportunity to get back on the field and knock off some dust. “Baseball is a game of repetition and we’ve not played in a while,” Coach Perkins said about the loss. “Our guys who only play JV have not played a game since Thursday May 2nd, and our guys who play varsity haven’t played since Sunday May 5th. We’re a little rusty possibly and we had a couple freshmen playing with us. I’m sure there were some jitters there and we played a good team. Summer ball is about player development and this will hopefully be a good tune up ahead of going to camp. There’s no stats kept for this. It’s just about having a good time.”