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Scrimmage against Cloudland nets 13-0 win for Horns

The Longhorns made another good preseason effort last Friday as they went a full seven innings against the Cloudland Highlanders in Roan Mountain. Despite bone chilling weather Johnson County still made great contact on the ball and worked solidly on the defense to prevent Cloudland from making a single run in spite of several good hits. The game largely ended on a dry note, with the last three innings seeing very little action from either side, but Johnson County had already put in more than enough runners to walk away with a win 13-0.
“The first three or four innings I thought we were doing things right,” said Head Coach Pete Pavusek.  “We looked good, but then it gets cold and they run out of pitchers and you kind of lose your head and you’re not real focused. It’s just time to wrap it up and get out of here. I thought in the first three or four innings that’s what we expect. We did really well. Hitting was good, our pitching was sound. We made the plays in the field and that’s what you want. You make the plays in the field, get descent pitching and timely hitting and you’re gonna have a really good chance to win the ball game.”
The Longhorns made pretty good progress from the very first time at bat, with players like Payton Fenner, Nathaniel Graybeal, and Nick Whitener all working well off of the Highlanders pitchers. Yet the best indicator of what kind of game it was came from senior Blade Hampton who landed a huge home run on his very first at bat this year.
“I have a good track record here, I guess,” Hampton said. “It’s a small field but a homerun is a homerun and it’s the first at bat I’ve had. I just want to have a good season. I want to play well obviously, but I just want the team to do well. I hope the team keeps hitting the ball well, keeps throwing the ball well. If our pitching comes through I think we’ll be alright. As long as we keep hitting and playing the field all we have to worry about is pitching really.”
The pitching did come through at Cloudland, with Johnson County running through a lineup of players on the mound, such as Brandon Vannoy, Adam Worley, and entirely new pitcher, Brandan Cox, who made his first live attempt and also shows a lot of promise. “I was pleased with our pitchers,” Coach Pavusek said. “Brandan Cox has a lively arm, he’s left handed, and the kid has never picked up a baseball before. He’s got potential. I see a time when he’ll look back on this and he’ll smile or laugh a little bit but one day he is going to be really good for us. The other pitchers we had in there did really well. Logan Sargent is back, he looked really good and he’s cleared to play. We picked up the basketball players like Vannoy, and it’s time to roll now.”
The pitching staff has been one of the biggest question marks thus far, but with so many new names on the roster there’s not a whole lot that is predictable about this season. This has put a lot of early additional pressure on the team’s few returning veterans who are going to be strongly needed as focus points and leaders for the new recruits. Even Blade Hampton admitted that his role as one of just three return seniors has given him a new sense of responsibility, but his huge debut against the Highlanders also seemed to fuel a great deal of confidence.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Hampton said.  “We’ve been through a lot of stuff and Coach Perkins has really been talking to me a lot about being a leader. I try my best in the preseason but it’s really hard to be a leader until you get out here on the field and show the younger guys that you know what you are doing and that they should listen to you because you can help them out. We’re young, just like Happy Valley was before last year, but we’ve got good young guys. It’s not like we have young guys that haven’t played much before. We have guys that have always played, really good sophomores and a really good freshman coming in. He’s going to be a lot of help.”
Even though, like the Hampton scrimmage, this game doesn’t really count for much in the long run, it is still undoubtedly a good thing to be coming into opening day with two victories under the team’s belt. Providing time on the field against a different opponent is irreplaceable experience for a new player, and as Coach Pavusek concluded that’s the most important thing right now. “It’s good for them,” Pavusek said. “Give them a chance, see what they got. It’s good to get in the game. That’s what you practice for, to give yourself a chance to get in the game.”