The weather in February would make you think baseball and softball seasons are in the home stretch. However, we are about 11 days from the season openers. Both teams bring back experience that should help them compete in District 7-AA.
Head coach Chase Jones brings an experienced, but still relatively young group of players into the 2017 baseball season. The team has only three seniors, but Coach Jones expects solid leadership from those young men. First baseman Hunter Layne, catcher Caleb Meeks, and outfielder/pitcher Trent Hampton will be counted on during their senior year to lead the team.
Coach Jones stated, “Team chemistry and the intangibles will be a big factor in the Yellow Jacket success for the upcoming season. This is an enjoyable group of young men to coach and be around and they enjoy being around each other.”
The team shapes up like this as opening day approaches: The catcher’s position is solid with experience in Meeks and junior Jacob Thomas. Thomas’s ability to play other positions is vital to the team. The infield includes Layne and sophomores Cody Eslinger and Kenzie Hill at first base, sophomores Hagen Cash and Hunter Sylvester battling at second base, junior Noah Bean at shortstop, and juniors Trey Hampton and Hill seeking playing time at third base. The outfield has some depth led by Trent Hampton and junior Blaine Harris who will man center field for the most part, with juniors Thomas and Casen King, and sophomores Kollyn Cooper, Steven Yates, and Tyler Patrick looking to fill the right and left field positions.
The pitching staff is deep led by junior southpaw Harris. The staff features three more lefties in Cooper, Yates, and Patrick. Senior Trent Hampton, along with juniors Trey Hampton, King, and Thomas, sophomores Cash, Hill, and Eslinger, and freshman Jaden Marcum round out the staff.
The Jackets play in the very competitive District 7-AA. Signal Mountain should be the team everyone’s chasing, but don’t count out anyone. Chattanooga Christian, Notre Dame, Sequatchie County, and Bledsoe County are the teams the Jackets will have to fight through to advance past the district tournament.
Head coach Jason Evans brings back an experienced group as well. He will look to six seniors to lead the Lady Jackets into the 2017 season. The team finished second in the regular season but was upset in the district tournament in 2016 by an improving Chattanooga Christian team.
The group of seniors include Emilee Meeks, Chloe Scissom, Makayla Nunley, Taylen Scissom, Macae Kilgore, and first year senior Brooke Sanders. Coach Evans stated, “I am very confident in the leadership ability of these young ladies.” He added, “I feel if we stay healthy we can contend for the district crown.”
The team is beginning to shape up like this: Emilee Meeks is a veteran that will handle the catching duties. Junior Kara Meeks will be at first base, sophomore Bailee Sweeton will be at second base, junior Teah Bosio will play shortstop, and Chloe Scissom will play third base. Scissom will play second when Sweeton is in the pitcher’s circle. Sophomore Kelsey Stevens will anchor the outfield from her center field position. Senior Taylen Scissom will be in right field while junior Liz Morgan will be in left field.
The pitching staff is led by senior Nunley and sophomore Sweeton. Both pitchers saw extensive action in 2016.
Coach Evans expects sophomore Emily Rhea and junior Kristin Weaver to help on the infield. Senior newcomer Sanders is working at DP and in the outfield. In the outfield, sophomore McKinley Thomas should add depth. Freshman Emma Seagroves is the second team catcher. Junior Tiffany Nolan is in her first year of high school softball and she is working at third base and the DP position. Freshman Kristin Stiefel is a left-handed pitcher and first baseman, while Jordan Dishroon has a strong arm and could compete for some playing time in the outfield. Sophomores Morgan Mooney and Shea Northcutt, along with freshman Kaitlyn Coffelt are working hard to help the team as well.
Kilgore hasn’t been cleared medically to resume play, but she will add depth to the outfield and second base.
The district is strong led by perennial power Sequatchie County. Chattanooga Christian, Notre Dame, and Signal Mountain are vastly improved and you can never count out Bledsoe County.
Hopefully, March and April will have some of the beautiful weather January and February displayed. Spring weather is so unpredictable, but baseball and softball games are hard to beat with beautiful weather. So, baseball and softball fans get ready for action, because it’s just days away.