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baseball preview: Diamonds ready to glitter
Ads seek to defend back-to-back titles with new coach; much is new with 2010 Bulldogs; HVA now experienced


Four Farragut High School baseball players who have earned special honors — among the nation's top talent capturing gold versus international competition or as major college signees — seek a third consecutive Class AAA state title leading FHS in 2010.

New FHS skipper Matt Buckner, a former assistant under Ads coaching legend Tommy Pharr in the early 2000s, led archrival Bearden to its first-ever state tourney in ’09.

Farragut’s four centerpieces are USA gold medalists Nicky Delmonico (shortstop) and Philip Pfeifer (pitcher) and Tennessee Vols signees Nick Williams (pitcher/first baseman) and Ethan Bennett (catcher).

Bearden looks to rebuild behind Jack Tate, veteran BHS assistant finally getting his first head coaching opportunity. Pitching might have to carry BHS early, Tate said.


Down Hardin Valley Academy way, head coach Kirk Renegar’s team returns almost intact from the program's inaugural season in 2009. A team starving for runs last season looks better at the plate, Renegar said, adding defense and pitching are strengths.

Detailed previews follow. (All quotes attributed to each team’s head coach)

FARRAGUT

Buckner said new talent must emerge at second base, third base, right field and at first base when Williams pitches.

Pfeifer, a junior All-state lefthander who has started Farragut's two state championship games as an underclassman, features a fastball, curveball and change-up.

“He's incredibly hard to hit, [pitches] have a ton of movement, really hard to square up. Number two, he pounds the [strike] zone. Number three, he just absolutely goes after you, goes for the kill. A great competitor on the mound. Smart, too.”

Williams was unbeaten as a starting pitcher last season. “One of our team leaders ... a winner. He has good velo[city], good command ... probably 86 to 88 [mph].”

At first base when Williams pitches, Chandler Vannoy leads but Stephen Belasco, Xander Taylor and Garrett Jordan battle.

Delmonico, also All-state, “has very few limitations ... sheer size and strength, athleticism, baseball knowledge, stroke.”

On the mound, Delmonico could see “a big relief role.” A.J. Simcox, Isaac Pannell or Michael Ledbetter would fill in at shortstop.

Bennett, an All-Region 2-AAA catcher, “is kinda the heart and soul of our team. Terrific defensively, a tough winner.”

However, with Bennett battling “arm issues ... Chris Griffin is a quality back-up.”

Stewart Martens, a senior, is a “pretty sharp defensive” second baseman, while third baseman Simcox “has definitely shown some plus defensive skills and hit well.”

Ryan Montalbano, Logan Hess, Jordan and Ledbetter also could see time at third.

Scott Miller, Pannell or Montalbano also could play some at second base.

The outfield is two-thirds experienced with seniors Tyler Noland (right field) and David Allen (centerfield). Noland hit .282 in 2009 with five home runs and 23 RBI, “which was pretty good production for just 70 at-bats.” Allen hit .322. “Both those guys can run ... David really can track [the ball] down. Tyler has a good arm.”

Left field starting duty is a battle between Nicholas Summers, Ian Cornman, Daniel Huggins and freshman Cameron Strickland.

Starting pitchers Taylor and Ledbetter “are talented kids, good stuff.” In the mix are Hess, Vannoy and Derek Chandler, “who to me has had the biggest off-season improvement.”

Designated hitter role is wide open. Other players looking for playing time are Braden Urevick, Everett Surrett and Jordan Newby.

BEARDEN

Tate said “all nine positions are basically wide open.”

Catchers Travis Scates and Drew Pasillas “both had varsity experience last year.” Cody Norwood and Derek Lance are in the mix.

Battling at first base are senior Joe Bruce, Norwood, Chase Keen and Daniel Hullett. “Chase could play three positions for us ... a tremendous leader."

Garrett Sale “is probably the leader” to start at second base, having started there some in 2009.

Trey York and Lance “will also play some second base.”

Dakota Stallings moves from third base to shortstop. York and Ronnie Broyles are in the mix.

Third base “is wide open” with Alex Helton, Chris Hamilton, Zach Sale and Dean Cates battling.

Ty Greene, who started “about 20 games last season” in left field, likely will start in centerfield when Bulldogs basketball season ends.

Hamilton, Zach Sale, Keen, Rob Thress, Adam Thomas, Marshall Wilkins and Broyles still are battling for the other outfield spots.

“I think pitching will be our strength. We really have 14 or 15 guys that can be in a our top five. My assistant, Brian Lovett, does a tremendous job with the pitchers.”

Hamilton, a junior, returns after his memorable no-hitter to beat Farragut and win the Sportbelle Classic last April.

Stallings “had a lot of success last year.” Cory Phillips “had a winning record for the varsity and I think the lowest ERA on the team” in 2009, and joins Anson Quillen, Chase Keen and Hullett with varsity experience.

Marshall Wilkins “pitched a little bit on the varsity,” and Keen “is our leading lefthanded pitcher.”

Tate said Hullett, a key 2009 reliever, will in 2010 “most likely” be a middle reliever or closer.

“Young guys who can also pitch a lot” include Cates, junior varsity MVP, Helton, Thomas, Broyles, Thress, Zach Sale and Lance. Craig Norwood “will be in the bullpen.”

Tate was “extremely impressed” with Lance after a recent scrimmage. “He played four different positions,” and could start.

HARDIN VALLEY

Renegar said about Chase Kirk at first base, “I think he's going to have a big year for us offensively.”

Second baseman Clay Williams is “really working at baseball.”

Shortstop Jake Denton returns. “I look for him to take a major step forward offensively this year.”

Third baseman Graham Rowan was honorable mention All-District in 2009, hit over .300, “led the team in RBIs” and was voted team MVP.

Stephen Revilla returns at catcher but battles Tanner Russell, who “has all the physical tools you need to play on the next level.”

Michael Overton “has shown some bat speed early,” while “versatile” Ty Zollmann could see time at catcher, outfield or first base.

In left field, Bryan Kolwyck “probably” has the nod, and will pitch. “Very good defensively.”

Centerfielder Elliot Whitt, an Honorable Mention All-District outfielder last season, hit .362 and led HVA in stolen bases.

Right field is “up in the air.” Ryan Hotz “is a good defensive outfielder, got good instincts ... a good baserunner.” Zach Ahmad “is going to be one of our main utility guys” also adding infield depth. Hunter Smoak “is an outstanding defensive centerfielder.”

Clay Fielden is a designated hitter candidate who “really displays some really good bat speed.”

Renegar “feels very good” about top starting pitchers Nathan Richardson, Joey Covell and Ryan Russell. “Nathan probably has the most arm strength,” while all three "are strike throwers” although they don't overpower batters.

No. 4 starter is Kirk or Kolwyck.

Bullpen help comes from Brian Griffith and Nick Simonelli, while Brennan Coley also will contend for the closer role with “an outstanding curveball.” Jordan Newport, a lefty, “showed flashes” of being a good closer last season.

Cole Brill, Ben Barnett, Tommy Weiler and Chris Besancenez all look to contribute.

 

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