Although the Hilltoppers’ 2017 run ended with a loss to Tennessee High in the District 1-AAA tournament, they are a slight favorite this season based on the depth of their pitching.
1. Science Hill
3. Daniel Boone
4. Tennessee High
6. David Crockett
The Hilltoppers return a pair of all-conference players from a year ago in shortstop David Bryant and pitcher Brandon Feathers. Others in the bullpen include Jackson Hill, Garrett Wilkins, Garrett Stiltner and Josh Francisco.
Catchers are Zach Copenhaver and Ben Edwards, whose versatility allows him to play wherever needed.
The infield features Colton Keller at first base and Cade McCoy, who fills in at different positions. Outfielders include Ben Grable, also the leadoff batter, Chance Hall, Matthew Levi and Caleb Marmo.
Dobyns-Bennett made it to the state tournament and won a game in Murfreesboro last season, but the Indians were hard hit by graduation.
Isaac Whitehead returns as the only everyday starter, but he moves from second base to shortstop.
Will Gladson saw quite a few innings at catcher last year, and Canon Ferrell and Max Everett played some in the outfield.
There is a lot of pitching back from last year’s team, and Everett is one of four seniors who saw significant innings last year. The others were Tanner Doran, Jeremiah Ball and Matt Taylor. Junior Brogan Beckner and sophomore Jackson McDavid are being counted on, as is Aiden Scanlen, who is expected to get lots of innings.
The Trailblazers lost in the District 1-AAA tournament a year ago and they have just three seniors on the roster, but the coaches believe they offer the stiffest challenge to the top two teams.
It’s largely because of the 1-2 pitching combination of Matt Cox and Hunter Adams. The rotation also includes Chase Chandler, Ben Allen and Brady Rogers. The closer is Cade Elliott, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who also plays at first base and in the outfield and is the cleanup hitter.
Brody Goodman leads off, followed by Cox and all-conference shortstop Eric Rigsby. Others filling out the lineup are Adams, Zach Taylor, Logan Rivers, Robbie Storen and Allen, the catcher.
James Richardson, Easton Harrell, Zach Saul and KC Vicchio are others expected to see significant time.
Conference newcomer Cherokee also has quite the 1-2 punch with Nick Collins, who pounds the strike zone, and three-year starter Ethan Crowder.
The infield comprises Dylan Johnson at catcher, Ethan Bledsoe at first base, Jessee Forgety at second, Collins at shortstop and Conner Burke at third base.
Outfielders are Ryan Morgan in left field, Steve Owen in center and Japheth Curpsinger in right. Owen is the closer, which means Trey Courtney usually fills in. Owen is also the leadoff batter, while Curpsinger wields a big bat as a power hitter.
The Pioneers lost Big 7 player of the year Will Leonard to graduation.
But Crockett does return three starters, including Tennessee Tech signee Will Long. Long hit .354 last season.
Tanner Treadway was a pitcher and an outfielder with .419 average. Devin Foster was a pitcher and an outfielder with .290 average.
There is also Milligan-bound senior Brodie Fox, who has played multiple positions. Other seniors are first baseman Luke Larkins, outfielder James Broyles and infielders Jacob Jenkins and Logan Miller.
The Falcons lost in the first round of last year’s District 1-AAA tournament, but they have 10 seniors and four returning starters.
The returning starters are third baseman Gabe Musick, center fielder Heath Douthat, right fielder Gabe Bass and second baseman Ethan Sargent.
The Falcons’ top pitchers are Noah Johnson, Musick, Sargent, Eli Dixon, Ethan Barrett and Douthat.
Johnson, Seth Kiersey and Caleb Spears are infielders who could make an impact, along with first basemen Alex Wilson and Eli Dixon. Rylan Greene and Barrett round out the lineup at left field.