Front row L-R: Jay Ortega, Asa Lewis, Dalton Brown, Graham Reece, Trey Snyder, Ezra Howard, Nathan King, Connor Stout, Tanner Bulliner. Back row L-R: Peyton Pavusek, Dakota Holt, Stacy Greer, Matt Mowery, Seth Conder, Jackson Earnhardt, Trevor Gentry, Dalton Adams, Isaiah Curd, Ethan Icenhour, Andrew Reece. Not pictured: Wyatt Crosby Photo by Joey Icenhour.
By Tim Chambers
COVID 19 allowed Johnson County to play only two baseball games last season, and Head Coach Pete Pavusek is still feeling the effects. That’s because many of his varsity baseball starters will be taking the field for the first time ever, including his middle infield, but he is optimistic and excited about what he had out on the field. He’ll be without his all-conference catcher Petie Pavusek, who is currently playing at King University and was a four-year starter for the Horns. But there is another Pavusek on the horizon that the coach expects some good things from. Sophomore Peyton Pavusek will play shortstop, and his best buddy and classmate, Graham Reece, (a lefty) will handle the second base chores.
“We feel like they can get the job done,” said Pavusek. “We would like Peyton to pitch some, but then we don’t have a shortstop. Graham is left-handed, but he’s quick getting rid of the ball, and we’re confident with him at second.”
Asa Lewis, who knocked the cover off the ball as a freshman, will be at first. Transfer, long-ball hitting Matt Mowery will play third and probably pitch some. The outfield will be blessed with speed. Dalton Brown, a speedster on the football field, will play right. Stacy Greer, another highly talented athlete, will roam centerfield while Pavusek is excited about Jackson Earnhardt’s addition, who will be penciled in to play left.
“Jackson has not played since the sixth grade, but he has come out and done really well,” said Pavusek. “We’ll use him on the mound, plus he’s been hitting the ball well.”
Pavusek said his team would try and come up with some pitching having to replace Bradley Livorsi and Ben Howard, but they’re working hard to solve that issue. Lewis, Stacy Greer, and Earnhardt will try their hand at it. Earnhardt knows what he is doing, but it’s been a while. Greer will have to pitch a lot for us. Greer can, but he’s an infielder. Pavusek is excited to have Ethan Icenhour behind the plate. He’s a pretty good catcher and comes from good stock. He’s got a great arm, and we have a lot of confidence in him.
Trey Snyder is an outfielder, and Seth Conder will be counted on to play multiple positions. Pavusek said the more they can get outside, the more the hitting improves.
“Last week, we were out every day, and you could tell it made a big difference. We need good weather and all the practice we can get. We’ll get there; it’s just going to take some time.”
Pavusek sees Elizabethton as the team to beat in the conference.
“Just because they have so many kids to pick from,” said Pavusek. “If they can pull a good player or two from the county each year, it makes a difference. East is always good along with Unicoi County. Our conference is always tough to compete in. I would hate to play the new school when they combine those Central, South, and North. We are not at the top of our league, but I don’t think we’re at the bottom either. Our kids will play hard and compete.”
Johnson County will open up with Sullivan East on the road on March 15 and will play them at home on the 16. They’ll play a non-conference home game against Hampton on March 18 before playing the always tough Elizabethton Cyclones on March 22 and 23 at home. Varsity game times are at 5 p.m. unless noted.