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baseball preview: Hawks seek to grow in ’09
Renegar thinks defense could be HVA team strength

Age, experience, physical development and getting used to the speed of varsity high school baseball.

All challenges for Hardin Valley Academy varsity baseball head coach Kirk Renegar starting a new program without seniors and few juniors.

“It’s been a very much exciting time for me personally,” said Renegar, most recently an assistant at Shenandoah University, Winchester, Va. “At the same time it’s been a tough time, getting this thing off the ground. But we have such a great group of kids.”

Renegar said his team is struggling with “maturity, physical maturity, as far as our athletes go, trying to compete at a varsity level this year. Playing 14- and 15-year-old kids against 17- and 18-year-old kids.”

Though having lost scrimmages versus Morristown East and Lenoir City, Renegar said there’s been “good, healthy competition” for starting positions and key playing time at most every position.

Outfield and pitching are the most solidified areas.

Freshman Elliot Whitt in right field “has been one spot that we’ve pretty much solidified,” Renegar said, adding junior Hunter Smoak has done the same in center field. And we’re pretty much solidified with [junior] Bryan Kolwyck in left field.”

How inexperienced is Hardin Valley’s pitching staff? “We have, on our pitching staff, two innings of varsity baseball experience — that is very young,” Renegar said, adding, however, “many” HVA players participated in “high school age” summer leagues in 2008.

Renegar’s top four starting pitchers, in order, are sophomores Nathan Richardson, Joey Covell, Ryan Russell and Kolwyck.

Whitt, a lefty, and Smoak both will pitch — especially in relief — the coach said. Outfield depth will be supplied by freshmen Jordan Newport and Michael Overton.

Freshman Chase Kirk also will see lots of time out of the bullpen, Renegar said. “A real bright spot for us has been Nick Simonelli, a sophomore … we converted him over to a pitcher. … We feel pretty comfortable with him as a submarine-type pitcher. He’s had a couple of nice outings here lately. If things continue to work that way might work him into a closer role.”

However, Renegar added as a group, “We don’t have the velocities on our pitching staff that we’ve seen [from opponents] the first two [scrimmage] games against Morristown East and Lenoir City.”

Catcher is a battle between junior Stephen Revilla and sophomore Clay Williams, “who gets after it hard,” the coach said.

At third base, Renegar said sophomore Graham Rowen “has really kinda taken to that spot and will probably be the guy. But Kirk remains in the mix and “is going to get an opportunity to see some action there.”

At shortstop, freshman Jake Denton “is going to have a real good opportunity to start for us,” the coach said. Zach Clevenger, a sophomore, “is coming out of basketball, trying to get some time as well.”

On the right side of the infield, specifically second base, “Zach Ahmad has really been getting a lot of time early on,” Renegar said of the sophomore. Williams also could factor in at second.

First base is a three-way battle among the heart of HVA’s pitching staff: Richardson, Covell and Russell.

At the plate, “Graham Rowan and Elliot Whitt, at this point in time, have proven and shown, along with Bryan Kolwyck, the ability to handle the [pitching] velocity we’re seeing,” Renegar said. “Pretty good at-bats. … an approach at the plate that will lead to success.”

Searching for an overall team strength, Renegar said, “I think we have an opportunity to be a pretty good team defensively. But we have not shown that in the first two [scrimmage] games. We have made some critical errors.”

As for basic offensive strategy, “We’re going to have to be very adept at the running game,” Renegar said. “We’re going to have to be very good at the short game, the bunts, the drag bunts, the hit-and-run is going to be huge for us.”

Other Hawks looking to contribute are juniors Jeremiah Williams and Tyler DelGiudice and sophomores Ben Smith, Jacob Jones, Scott Impellizeri, Ty Zollman, Matt Donovan and Brian Griffith. Freshman are Ben Barnett, Kyle Monnin, Carman Bower, Andrew Gladstone, Chad Ritter and John Pittenger.

Renegar’s assistants are Robert Wright and Josh Wells.


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