Farragut and Bearden are going to be tough to catch at this point.
The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 seeds for next month’s District 4AAA baseball tournament remain up for grabs, and Heritage coach Robbie Bennett likes his team’s chances for claiming one of those spots. A good showing at this weekend’s Blount Discount Pharmacy Invitational, and the Mountaineers (11-10, 6-4) could very well prove one of those teams heating up at just the right time.
“We’re young, but we’re coming in with some confidence,” Bennett said. “We’re coming in confident, but we’re coming in to get better.”
It’s an aggressive batting order, backed by strong pitching of late, which has the Mountaineers one of the teams to beat in this weekend’s six-team tournament to be played at Heritage and William Blount. Sophomore center fielder Clayton Shell is lighting up the plate for Heritage with a .429 batting average. Seniors Tommy Lawson (.373) and Brandon Reed (.368) are putting up strong numbers as well.
On the hill, senior Josh Carico, coming off a one-hitter in a win over rival Maryville last week, and sophomore Jordan Caughron constitute a pair of strong arms at the top of the pitching rotation. It’s depth there Bennett would like to see develop, and there’s nothing like a tournament to help make it happen.
“When you’ve got a tournament, you’ve got a chance to get some kids in there that don’t get to see much action,” Bennett said.
The Blount Discount tournament will include the Rebels and top RBI man Mark Strong, along with teams from William Blount, Knox Central, South-Doyle and Bradley Central. Carico pitched the Mountaineers by the Rebels, 9-1, only a week ago, but Bennett isn’t making too much of the win at this point. The Governors, who dropped a one-run decision to Farragut earlier this season, are sure to be in the mix come next month as well.
“They hit the ball well against us,” Bennett said. “They looked like one of the better teams in our district.”
While the current overall mark is not what he’d like, Bennett said he’s taking into account the early-season schedule and his squad’s youth. Three freshmen — catcher Brandon Malone, shortstop Justin Teffeteller and left fielder Matt Wilburn — will start for the Mountaineers this weekend, backed by no shortage of impact sophomores.
“As the season’s gone on, we’ve been up and down,” Bennett said, “but I’m excited about what this team can do (come postseason). We can score some runs. We’ve just got to stay confident we can hit the ball.”
A spot at the head of the district table in two weeks time may very well hang in the balance.
Blount Discount Pharmacy Invitational
Apr 17 — at Heritage: Heritage vs. Maryville, 4 p.m.; Heritage vs. Knox Central, 6:15; South-Doyle vs. Knox Central, 8:30. At William Blount: William Blount vs. Bradley Central, 5; Maryville vs. Bradley Central, 7:30.
Apr 18 — at Heritage: Heritage vs. Bradley Central, 5; Bradley Central vs. South-Doyle, 7:15. At William Blount: William Blount vs. Knox Central, 6.
Apr 19 — at Heritage: Heritage vs. South-Doyle, noon. At William Blount: Knox Central vs. Maryville, 2; William Blount vs. South-Doyle, 4:15; William Blount vs. Maryville, 6:30.