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baseball preview: Plenty of weapons for FHS state repeat in ’09
Pharr: catching, outfield newcomers key


Around District 4-AAA, or Region 2-AAA, or the state of Tennessee for that matter, Tommy Pharr will receive little sympathy for his concerns about Farragut’s offense in the bottom four line-up spots.

With seniors who have played major roles in winning two Class AAA baseball state titles the past three years fortifying an infield and pitching staff loaded to the max for 2009, coach Pharr seems to have plenty of ammunition to win his fifth state crown in seven years.

“We talk a little bit about state championships, but we don’t focus on that as much as trying to get better and trying to keep focused on that,” Pharr said. “There maybe some pressure when you’re ranked and people expect you to be good, there’s a little bit that comes with that.”


Biggest concerns seem to be all three outfield spots and catcher, especially offensive production at these positions, according to Pharr.

“Probably the biggest thing is we’re unproven at catcher, which is a huge thing,” he said. “And we’re unproven in the outfield. … I think we’re going to be fine, but none of ’em but Blake [Hayes] have ever started.

“We feel like the guys returning are going to hit, but we’ve gotta have some other guys help us out at the plate,” Pharr added.

With the exception of catcher, the infield returns intact. The left side of the infield features a pair of All-state standout seniors starting for the fourth straight season: third baseman Cade Stallings, a University of Louisville signee, and shortstop Curt Powell, a Vanderbilt signee.

Upon his signing, Pharr labeled Powell “a great player, great athlete, going to be a good defensive player [at Vandy]. Swings the bat well. Can runs. I think he’s got all the tools to be very successful in the S-E-C.”

As for Stallings, “Cade has great power ... He swings the bat really well, and he’s better defensively than people think. Collegiately, he’s going to be able to hit and hit with power,” Pharr said.

The right side has sophomore standout second baseman Nicky Delmonico who played a huge role, alongside FHS pitching teammate Philip Pfeifer, in helping the United States National 16-and-Under team win gold in the Pam American Champion-ships in Veracruz, Mexico last fall.

At first base is All-District 4-AAA/All-Region 2-AAA honoree Mac Thoreson, also a key pitcher.

Junior catcher Ethan Bennett has big shoes to fill. He’s replacing All-state Michael Williams, now a freshman at the University of Kentucky named Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association high school Player of the Year in 2009.

“He’s a hard worker, big, strong kid,” Pharr said of Bennett. “Has a good arm, good defensive guy. I think he’ll be a good hitter for us. … I think he’s done a good job so far in preseason.”

Junior Chris Griffin will back-up Bennett.

In the Admirals’ outfield, Pharr declared all three starting spots “wide open, we’ve got six guys working out there. … We’ve got some good battles going on.”

Senior Hayes, a 2008 starter in right field, “probably will be right field again,” Pharr said. Senior Steven Weaver is battling Hayes in right.

In center is junior Tyler Noland and junior David Allen, while in left field seniors Grant Tabor and Ellison Fitchpatrick were “battling it out” according to Pharr.

“I think all those guys are good defensively … kind of the deal is offense right now,” Pharr said. “Just trying to see who’s going to swing it a little bit, and that’ll probably be an ongoing process. They’ve all had their moments, but it’s not like anybody’s stood out over the other ones.”

Another name to watch at multiple positions is senior Trip Keeton. “He’s a utility guy, he can play anywhere on the field,” Pharr said. “I’ve worked him a little bit in the outfield just trying to find a place for him. He swings [the bat] pretty good.”

Junior pitcher/first baseman Nick Williams also is a designated hitter. “He’s a good hitter, a strong kid with a lot of power,” Pharr said.

The seemingly pitching-rich Admirals return All-state arms Jordan Cooper, a senior, and Pfeifer, a sophomore — both lefties — and No. 3 starter Thoreson.

In addition to his international pitching success in Mexico, Pfeifer was named National High School Baseball Association Rookie of the Year.

Near the end of scrimmage play last week, Pharr said Cooper “right now is throwing the best of our top three guys. … Cooper played with one of the East Cobb [Ga.] teams [last summer], and they’re some of the better teams in the nation. … Coop has really good arm strength, he’s done a great job developing his off-speed pitches. He has a fastball that has good velocity and has great movement. … I think he’s going to have an outstanding year.

“But there’s not much difference in the three of ’em,” Pharr added. “Pfeifer has command of three pitches [fastball, breaking ball and change-up], has good velocity, very competitive.

“Mac’s throwing the ball really well right now. … Kind of a complete pitcher, kind of a Craig Cobb-type guy, locates, competes well. Not going to wow you with his velocity, but going to go out and just beat people.

“Nick Williams will be a starter for us, right now he’d probably be our fourth guy in the rotation,” Pharr added. “Good arm strength, throws the ball pretty hard. Has a really good change-up. And his breaking ball has come on.

“He’s a guy I’m expecting a lot from.”

Also expected to contribute on the mound according to Pharr are Delmonico, seniors Ryan Littman and Marshall Leavell, juniors Logan Hess and Ryan Montalbano and sophomore Derek Chandler.

Other players looking to contribute are juniors Stephen Belasco, Ian Comman, Stewart Martens, Josh Zimmer and sophomore Nicholas Summers.

Pharr’s assistant coaches are Davis Burklin and Brian McCord.

 

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