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Baseball season starts on Monday

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor

And suddenly, it is here. The sound of metal hitting baseballs will be heard all around East Tennessee on the high school diamonds starting Monday.  Johnson County will be among those teams as they will travel to Sullivan East to take on the Patriots, who were picked to finish third in the conference. The Longhorns must play the Patriots back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday because of the way the conference has chosen to set up games. If you play a team at home one day, you travel to their place the next day. This can be a good thing because it keeps a team from saving their ace pitcher to throw in every conference game.

Sullivan East will likely cut loose with their big senior right-hander Luke Hale, who has already signed to play with King University. They also have another senior pitcher in Seth Chaifin that is expected to give them plenty of depth at that position. Basketball fans will remember the name Dylan Bartley who was the league’s player of the year. He plays first base and is also an outstanding hitter. Mike Breuninger coaches the Patriots. Our beloved Longhorns will likely counter with Asa Lewis on the mound and many young up-and-coming players, including Peyton Pavusek at shortstop and Matt Mowery at third base. Stacy Greer will provide the senior leadership and can hold his own with anybody in the league. 

Elizabethton always loaded
Coach Ryan Presnell will need to replace Evan Carter, who was selected with the 50th pick in last spring’s major league draft. He wants his team to have fun, and they usually do because they win, and this year will be no different. The pitching is solid with junior Gage Treadway and senior flamethrower Ashton Wilson. Bryson Rollins, a division 1 prospect in baseball and football, is back to play shortstop, and he’s only a junior. Zack Workman and Cooper Tipton are two-year starters who will definitely add the experience needed to challenge another league title, as will Jaden Anderson, who can flash the leather in the infield.

Unicoi County
In recent years, Unicoi County has been baseball university, and Head Coach Chad Gillis hopes it returns there. They’ll challenge this year with Lucas Slagle, a stud on the basketball court who can pitch and play first base, and Gavin Sawyer at shortstop. Kaleb Metcalf is another good pitcher who will bolster that department along with Jordan Bridges. Valentine Batrez will handle the catching chores.

Sullivan South’s Swan Song
Bye-Bye to the best hot dog you can get at a high school ballpark. Long-time skipper Anthony Richardson will lead the Rebels to what they hope could be another strong finish. He’ll have the pitching led by junior righty Jackson Dean and sophomore Drew Hoover who could toe the rubber for anyone in the league. Isaac Haynie will roam centerfield, and Brody Ratliff will play first. Sean Reed and Eli Jennings are expected to shape up the infield. 

Cougars Farewell
Sullivan Central will take the diamond for the final time before departing to their new high school next year.They will rely on pitcher Carson Tate to toe the rubber as their top pitcher. Hunter Stanley is a junior pitcher that throws hard with a good curveball. Logan Bowers will be the catcher, while Nathaniel Mullins will pitch and play second. Preston Staubus is a speedster in centerfield. 

Happy Valley 
Todd Caldwell takes over after a standout career at East Tennessee State and Milligan college. Eli Ayers, who shined on the football field at quarterback, will pitch along with junior Hunter Smith. Standout basketballer Andrew Little is one of the team’s top hitters. Johnson County will play Hampton at home on Thursday at 5 p.m. with Johnson County’s Nick Perkins coaching the Dogs.