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JCHS Baseball Team looking for pitching depth in 2011

If the JCHS Baseball Team can find some depth at pitching, the Longhorns may just have one of their best teams in several years going into the 2010 campaign.
The Longhorns have proven hitters and some solid pitching at the top of the order, but the question is will some unproven players step up and be able to hold batters in check.
The Longhorns have experience with Mark Jennings and Sammy Hampton, but has very little varsity experience after the top two.
However, JCHS head coach Pete Pavusek says he thinks players like Andy Stout, Sawyer Ward and Harley Reece are ready to step into those roles and give the 'Horns quality innings.
“When you play four or five games a week you have to have pitching and I've hated it for us the last couple of years that we've ended up playing eight or nine games the last week of the season and you have no pitching for the conference tournament,” Pavusek said. “Hopefully the weather will hold up and will have an advantage going into the District Tournament.”
One advantage JCHS has this year that it hasn't in recent years is a very warm February and early March without much rain, allowing the team to practice almost every day.
Also, some special improvements made to the field has allowed the team to not be swamped when it has rained and should allow for less cancellations.
“It's really helped us out and has given us a chance to get on the field and work on situations and coverages,” Pavusek said. “You can't get a feel of how things are going in the classroom or in the gym, you have to be on the field and go through the motions. All the work they have done on the field has really helped.”
The Longhorns do have some very solid hitters and Pavusek expects an explosive offense just like last year.
“I think we'll be able to hit, it's up to our pitching,” Pavusek said. “They're going to score runs on our pitchers and it's going to be up to our hitters to get us ahead and keep us ahead. Once we get that lead we're going to have to keep that lead.
“It's up to Andy Stout, Sawyer Ward and Harley Reece to give us that chance. We can't do much when you only have two pitchers. You have to have guys who can keep you in the game no matter what day a week it is.”
The Longhorns do have some speed in the infield and outfield with football players Mark Jennings and Austin Humphrey, track standout Jacob Henson, second baseman Sawyer Ward and shortstop Judd Hammons.
Danny Herman, a football lineman also has deceiving speed and Hampton has some good speed as well.
“We have some guys who can run and we're not going to be afraid to run them,” Pavusek said.
Pavusek pretty much has his starting lineup set with Daniel Helm at first, Sawyer Ward at second, Judd Hammons, Andy Stout and Sammy Hampton at short, Mark Jennings and Harley Reece at third with Ryan Mahala, Sammy Hampton, Jacob Henson and Austin Humphrey in the outfield and Danny Herman and Ryan Smith at catcher.
“We really think we can be pretty good,” Pavusek said.
There has been a shake-up in the coaching staff this season as longtime assistant Eric Crabtree has stepped down to focus on his efforts with the Lady Longhorn Volleyball program and Nicholas Perkins, who has volunteered for a couple of years and has served as an assistant coach at Happy Valley, is now a full-time assistant for JCHS.
Also joining the Longhorn coaching staff is Cliff Mahala with a possible additon of another coach later.
“We've got good quality guys who can get things done,” Pavusek said. “One guy can't do it all and I count on those guys a lot.”
Yes the Longhorns look like a solid team on paper, but the only problem is the Three Rivers Conference might be one of the top two or three conference in Class AA.
Sullivan East may be the favorite this year, but of course you can never count out Unicoi County and its tradition-rich program.
As for where the Longhorns fit in, they will have to hold serve against the middle of the pack teams and pull an upset or two if they are going to finish in the top half.
“This is one of the toughest leagues in the state,” Pavusek said. “Sullivan East is going to be loaded and Happy Valley, Elizabethton and North is going to be tough and of course Unicoi County. Every day is a tough game. There's no easy games. We're going to have to upset some people and I think we're capable of doing that. I wouldn't put it by these guys to beat some of these big teams. The teams we're expected beat, we have to take care of business.
JCHS opens its season next Monday at home against rival Happy Valley.