By Tim Chambers
The 2016 high school baseball season had its ups
and downs with very few dominant teams like in past years. Johnson County proved it could play with the elite by knocking off Sullivan East, Happy Valley twice and dropping a one run contest to Elizabethton.
The Patriots were the seventh seed in the District tournament but came on strong to finish second. Johnson County bowed out early and so did the Cyclones. The Warriors made the semifinal round before dropping a one-run contest.
The Watauga Valley Conference wasn’t as strong this year with the exception of Unaka. The Rangers finished 23-6 and reached the sub-state round before falling to Grace Christian. They started six freshmen that made the
feat even more impressive.
So picking this year’s squad was a hard task, but we finally got it done after much deliberation.
The toughest task was trying to select a Player of the Year.
Peyton Fenner supported a .522 batting average and led the Longhorns in RBIs with 39. He also played brilliantly behind the plate a
nd stole 16 bases.
Elizabethton’s Michael Robinson batted .464 against a monster schedule that included Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett. The senior standout was also the best defensive shortstop in the league and gathered 32 RBIs.
Our panel felt like both were deserving of the honor and tabbed them as our Co-Players of the Year.
The Cyclones landed three players on the “Baker’s Dozen Best” in addition to one of two top newcomers.
Drew Wetzel, Bo Pless and Garrett Hartley are penciled in.
Wetzell batted .374 and scored 34 runs with 11 stolen bases. Pless hit at a .341 clip in addition to his mound duties.
Hartley heads up the pitching staff after a remarkable season. The crafty southpaw was 7-2 with 60 strikeouts versus 26 walks.
Three Longhorns join Fenner on the squad.
Samuel Icenhour hit .474 and stole 24 bases. His 46 hits were second to Fenner’s 48 total. He was considered by many to be the best centerfielder in the league.
Whitener was 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA. He also hit .375 and drove in 25 runs. Logan Sargent batted .399 with 30 RBIs.
Happy Valley was represented by Milligan College signee Ryan Baines and Ian Scruggs.
Baines hit .373 with four homers and 26 RBIs. Scruggs hit over .300 in addition to doing a great job at first base and on the mound.
Unaka‘s duo of Kyler Wilson and Abram Hill were unanimous selections.
Wilson batted .457 with 26 RBIs. He was Player of the Year in the WVC. Hill‘s 7-2 record and 1.45 ERA landed him the WVC top pitcher award.
Rounding out the team is Hampton’s Wyatt Lyons. The lefty Lyons pitched well and batted near the .400 mark.
Top Newcomer honors were shared between Elizabethton’s Cory Russell and Unaka’s John Ramsey.
Russell hit .323 as a freshman against a tough non-league schedule. Ramsey batted .302 and logged an 8-1 record on the mound.
Unaka’s Tee Blevins was selected as our Coach of the Year. His squad was 23-6 despite a starting lineup that featured six freshmen
Best of the Rest:
Elizabethton: Drew Wetzell, Garrett Hartley, Bo Pless
Samuel Icenhour, Nick Whitener, Logan Sargent
Happy Valley: Ryne Baines, Ian Scruggs
Unaka: Kyler Wilson, Abram Hill
Hampton: Wyatt Lyons