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Webb diamond teams facing similar challenges in 2007

Webb School of Knoxville’s Spartans and Lady Spartans face similar challenges on their respective baseball and softball diamonds as the 2007 season reaches the halfway mark.


The Webb softball team, coached by Dennis Ray in his eighth season as head coach at Webb and 17th overall (previously at perennial powerhouse Gibbs), finished fourth in the state in 2004. Last season, however, Webb played the toughest schedule in school history, completing the campaign at 11-17.

Expect more “work in progress,” according to Ray. Seven of the 18 players are eighth-graders with only four seniors. Ray said the senior leadership of Mary-Catherine Curfman, Leigh Haslam, Jenna Purdy and Abby Wells will be vital for the Lady Spartans to make a post-season run.

Strategically, the coaching staff has converted a few players with speed from being right-handed hitters to left-handed. The result: players such as Morgan Harrison, Abby DeBusk and Purdy hope to get on base more often.

Ray adds that defensively,, “we are strong at all positions.”


Clark Wormsley, varsity baseball head coach and 2005 Region III Coach of the Year, also is rebuilding after losing nine players from the 2006 state tourney team.

Two-time state runners-up in 2003 and 2005, Webb is different in 2007 — bunting more often, more aggressive on the bases and producing more runs with speed.

The Spartans have seven returning lettermen as well as newcomers Justin Alexander, a sophomore transfer from Saipan; senior transfer Jay Pannell, freshman catcher Jason Berube and eighth-grader Parker Wormsley at second, shortstop and pitcher.

Returning first baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones, a Tennessee Tech signee and Louisville Slugger All-American Honorable Mention, blasted nine home runs and 50-plus RBIs last year. Senior Bo Johnson, All-Region and All Division II-East in 2006, will play shortstop.

Look for both seniors to see time on the mound. Expect Kirby-Jones to be in the four-man starting rotation along with junior Steele Taylor, and Alexander.

Taylor “established himself as one of Webb’s top pitchers in pre-season” according to Wormsley. Sophomore Drew Packard, the team’s only left-handed pitcher, will see time out of the bullpen.

Look for senior Tom Ergen, the designated hitter, to provide a spark. Senior Blake Beeler is playing third base while senior Sean Purdy, the only outfielder with extensive varsity experience, will bat No. 2.

Seniors Chad Manning and Will Strickland are competing in the infield and outfield, respectively.


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