By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Johnson County enters the 2018 baseball season with a lot of optimism despite finishing 6-13 in 2017. Head coach Pete Pavusek will begin
his 23rd season as head
baseball coach, and the legendary skipper hopes to be much improved with a lot of young talent and versatile players on this year’s squad.
Pavusek earned his 310 career win last year with 309 coming against Elizabethton. They also defeated Happy Valley who eliminated them in the first round of the District Tournament.
Comments from the coach
“We had some good league wins last year, but we never could get any consistency,” said Pavusek. “Not being able to get on the field just absolutely killed us. We would get a few good days outside and then it would rain for a week, and we would have to start all over. I believe we can put together a pretty good season if we can get some good weather and field time.”
Several Longhorns vying for playing time:
Pitching and versatility will be the Longhorns top two strengths.
Stephen Osborne is set to play first. Gavin Reece, Ben Howard, and Petie Pavusek will hold down second base depending upon whose pitching and catching.
Bud Icenhour and Jayden Joiner will switch back and forth between shortstop and the mound. Joiner can also play in the outfield while Icenhour swings a good bat, hitting .320 in 2017.
Johnny Arnold is currently at third base with Reece Stout injured. Arnold can play anywhere on the field so finding him a spot won’t be hard when Stout returns.
All conference centerfielder Shane Greer returns after hitting .404 a year ago. Josh Tierney will hold down the left field spot while Gabe Reece is slated to be on the right.
Weston Throop will see time on the mound as a lefty and will play some outfield. Pavusek and Gavin Reece will share time behind the plate with Arnold available if needed. Bradley Livorsi is another player that could see some valuable playing time as an infielder.
Freshman Stacy Greer is another player to be added to the mix.
“We have a lot of pitching on this team which is a good thing,” added Pavusek. “We have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions. I feel like our hitting is better with Coach Eric Crabtree back helping me. We’ve always had good hitting teams back in the day when he was helping. I think we can get back to that.”
Conference schedule change
Teams will play conference games on back to back days this year. If Johnson County is scheduled to play Elizabethton at home on a Monday, then the two teams would play again
on Tuesday at the opposite place.
“It doesn’t hurt my feeling one bit with all the arms that we have,” said Pavusek. “You don’t have to see a guy who can dominate twice in a row. Some teams scattered their conference games for that reasons. I prefer the way we are doing it this year.”
Sullivan Central should pose a threat to win the league
after moving down from 3A. Unicoi County is expected to be strong again along with
Sullivan South and Elizabethton.
“You can’t really tell who has what,” said Pavusek about trying to sum up the league’s top teams. “It’s always tough from top to bottom. Anybody can beat the other on a given day. I think we can be in the top four if we can get some good weather and create some consistency.”
The Longhorns will open up at Unicoi County on Monday, March 12 and will play the Blue Devils again at home on Tuesday, March 13. Both games begin at 5:30 p.m.