After a very rough 0-6 start to the season the Johnson County High School Junior Varsity baseball team has really been picking up steam, traveling on Good Friday to David Crockett high school in a huge double header that left the Longhorns walking away with what was very nearly a shutout in the first game and a narrow loss in the second.
Sophomore Logan Sargent took the mound for the initial seven innings, having rested up from his last performance on the varsity to help claim the huge 7-1 win over the Pioneers. The victory was his first for the season at pitcher, but Sargent also had a major hand in helping the offense as he managed two surprising bunt hits, added to several solid at bats from teammates like Jake Bower, Adam Worley and Payton Fenner who is now hitting over .400.
All season we have worked on the inside game, small ball, push bunting, drag bunting, suicide squeeze, bunt and run, just putting pressure on the defense, said JV Coach Nicholas Perkins. In our win at David Crockett, Jake Bower successfully executed his third suicide squeeze bunt of the JV season, Logan Sargent had two bunt hits, and Adam Worley had a bunt hit vs. the Unicoi County JV Club on April 12th, so its not only the sacrifice bunt. The kids have really improved at picking up signs and understanding how to execute the plays.
Utilizing new Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution regulation bats since the 2012 season, the new technology reduces the speed of the ball but increases its trampoline effect. This creates more accuracy and less energy needed to propel the ball farther. As Coach Perkins pointed out, this has led to more and better hits even when the tactic is a passive one, as with bunting. I have finally bought into the fact that with the new bats the days of waiting on extra base hits is over, Perkins said. Most hits are now singles. Its a new game and I feel manufacturing runs is a part of the new game.
Even the best strategies sometimes cant compensate for simple luck and circumstance. Switching up the defense and putting Adam Worley on the mound, the Longhorns held the Pioneers to a very tight game in the second round of the doubleheader, but a couple of good hits late in the game proved to be Johnson Countys undoing. Trailing 0-1 coming into the fourth, Crockett landed a string of four good hits. The first runner was caught out on his way to third, but the second and third runners took advantage of hit and an error in left field to finally push through to home plate. That left the score 3-0, and despite earlier offensive success including a hit by Jose Guzman and a third base drive from Jake Bower, Johnson County was unable to provide any answering runs of their own.
That final loss aside, the evening was a successful one for the JV, bringing their overall record to 6-5 and indicating substantial improvement from the beginning of the season. With the varsity team now featuring so many young players, the invaluable lessons of the JV are more important than ever, but if games like David Crockett are any indicator, the program is right on track.