NET tops SW Va. again in baseball senior challenge

Tanner Cook Baseball players out of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia faced off at Tennessee High’s Tod Houston Field in Bristol, Tenn., on Tuesday in the annual senior challenge. The Tennessee squad won 5-1 in the nine-inning matchup.

BRISTOL, Tenn. — On a sun-drenched Tuesday afternoon at Tod Houston Memorial Field, Northeast Tennessee continued its dominance over Southwest Virginia in the annual baseball senior challenge, winning 5-1 in nine innings.

The Tennessee team has never lost the senior challenge.

Bryson Collins of Wise Central started off the night by winning the home run derby, totaling six long balls in the first round and sending out three in the championship showdown. Brogan Beckner of Dobyns-Bennett finished second, totaling four homers.

“I love representing my school and coming out here, playing the game that I have loved my whole life,” Collins said. “It’s great to come out here and compete with a bunch of competitors from both Tennessee and Virginia. ... We didn’t win the game, but winning the home run derby gave us a little bit of something as a team. You always want to hit more, but I felt like six was good enough for the lead.”

Collins will be attending Virginia-Wise in the fall.

The game gave the seniors who’ve already graduated the opportunity to don their school jerseys once more to play the game they love.

Science Hill’s Ben Edwards was named the most valuable player for the Tennessee side after driving in a pair of runs and scoring once.

“It feels great to put my jersey on one last time,” Edwards said. “With all the good times I’ve had in this jersey, it’s great to experience it one more time before you put it up forever. ... It’s unique to come together with all the other guys from Northeast Tennessee. It’s fun because we’ve played both together and against each other a lot.”

Justin Lewis of Virginia High was the Virginia side’s MVP. He was perfect on the evening, going 3-for-3 with three singles and a walk.

Most of the action happened over the first three innings, Tennessee spurting out to a 3-0 lead after two.

Virginia scored in the third, but the otherwise the next six frames were pretty clean for Tennessee. The combined pitching of Tennessee High’s Davis Hall, Daniel Boone’s Hunter Adams, Elizabethton’s Lawson Wagner and Science Hill’s Garrett Gleason shut down a potent offense.

Virginia pitched pretty well, too — until the eighth. And a pair of errors allowed the last two runs to cross the plate.

“It feels really good. It’s surreal, actually. Cade (McCoy), Ben and I have been together now for about six years and it’s great to have one last time on the field together,” Gleason said.