Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Horns start summer season with a close loss to Patriots

The regular season may be over, but summer ball is just getting started for the JCHS baseball program. Last week the Longhorns went on the road to Bluff City to take on the Sullivan East Patriots. The game was a battle between the pitching staff, with Nicholas Whitener taking the mound first for the Longhorns. Rolling through the first three innings without even so much as a third base drive, Whitener handled the Patriot offense well but was backed up by a surprisingly strong showing from some of Johnson County’s incoming freshmen.
Shane Greer in particular did an excellent job at first base, making a couple of difficult plays midway through the game before being moved over to third where he proved his versatility by making another smooth catch there as well. Other freshmen players like McClain Howard, Gabe Reece, and Jonathan Arnold all showed promise as well and quickly warmed into their role as high school players despite this being their first actual game with some of their new teammates.
“It was just a good game and a good experience for the freshmen,” said Coach Nicholas Perkins. “We’re making an effort this year, and this really a credit to Coach Jerry Whitener, to get the incoming freshmen involved earlier as far as our size and our plays, and our system. We hope that’s a big help, starting to teach them our program in May and June as opposed to waiting until next February. That’s a credit to Coach Whitener and his strong feelings about doing that and I feel good about it.”
Having come into the program last year, Coach Whitener’s responsibilities with the team have steadily increased with him doing an excellent job of calling pitches against the Patriots. By its nature summer ball is more lax, but the players also seem to have more fun with the games. Positions get switched around, the rosters can be mixed up between JV and varsity, and coaches are willing to try new things on the field.
That said, there were many substitutions and changes made on the defense throughout the game and even though Whitener was doing a good job for Johnson County, he eventually was called in to give Alex Calderon a chance to try his hand. Throwing out a solid performance for the last couple of innings, Calderon did remarkably well in other areas as well, as Coach Perkins pointed out.
“Nicholas Whitener gave us three great innings in a start and of course it is summer ball so even if your starting pitcher’s cruising he may get pulled to let more pitchers get some work,” Perkins said. “You manage summer ball games much differently than you do regular season. Alex Calderon played his first ever high school game at third base, and again several freshmen got some playing time. Shane Greer made a couple good plays at first then we moved him over to third base and he made a good play there, so it’s been a good start to our summer.”
As strong as Johnson County’s defense played, East is undeniably a very talented team and the score remained deadlocked at zero all the way through the first three innings. There were a couple of close calls late in the game where players like Daniel Livorsi nearly managed third, but it was ultimately the fourth inning before Gabe Reece finally got pushed home off an advance from Adam Worley. That one run wasn’t enough to offset the two runs that East managed to put on the board after putting notoriously talented pitcher B.J. Murray on the mound.
Despite the 2-1 loss, Coach Perkins was still very pleased with the outcome of the first summer game, especially considering the caliber of competition. “East is one of the best teams in our conference and have been since they entered the conference in 2010,” said Perkins. “Three Rivers Conference Pitcher of the Year, BJ Murray closed the game for them and got the save. Summer ball is a mixed bag; you’re never sure who you’re going to be playing, whether it’s young players or veteran players, or a combination of both. I think it was a combination for them as it was for us, but I thought it was a good time. You want the kids to have a fun in the summer as well. I thought it was a really well played game by both teams especially considering that we had four freshmen who got to play. It was a really good way to show off our summer ball program.”