With just a few days remaining in the regular season to tune up for the District 5-AAA baseball tournament, local coaches are hoping to fine tune their squads to prepare for a strong postseason run.
“We’re hoping to get hot at the right time, again” declared Coach Joe Shamblin, whose Walker Valley squad caught fire last May and made a run to the TSSAA state semifinals. “We know what one of those runs are like. Even though we lost a lot (seven) of players off that team, we still have guys who are capable of doing the same again.”
While Ooltewah (19-11, 10-2 District 5-AAA) goes into the district tournament at Soddy-Daisy as the No. 1 seed, Bradley County teams — Walker Valley (17-12, 9-3), Bradley Central (18-10, 9-3) and Cleveland (14-18, 7-5) — hold down the next three spots.
The event gets underway Wednesday at the north Hamilton County school, with Coach Ted Carson’s fourth-seeded Blue Raiders taking on No. 5 Rhea County (10-13, 3-9), opening play at 5 p.m. Coach Travis Adams’ third-seeded Bears face No. 6 McMinn County (3-20, 2-10) in the nightcap at 8.
Cleveland swept the Eagles by a combined 12-1 score during the third week of the regular season, while Bradley did the same to the Cherokees in a pair of one-run (2-1, 3-2) games the following week.
“All of our district games have been close,” commented coach Adams. “There is no clear-cut team you want to play. You’ve got to beat whoever you are matched up against. It all depends on how you play that day.”
Day 2 of the district event will see the second-seeded Mustangs play the host Trojans (6-19, 2-10) at 5 p.m. on May 2, while the regular-season champion Owls will await the Cleveland-Rhea winner at 8 p.m.
“Although they only have six wins, Soddy-Daisy is a tough team. Playing them on their home field won’t be easy,” declared coach Shamblin, whose team got past the Trojans 8-3 and 4-0 earlier this week.
A couple of key local players are hoping to be healed up by the district tournament as Walker Valley ace Kamren Barnes has been pitching the last couple of weeks with a couple of broken fingers on his nonpitching hand and Bradley hurler/third baseman Jacob Fowler has been nursing a shoulder injury.
Barnes’ injury has prevented him from playing in the field (other than on the hill) and from hitting. Fowler has been used as a designated hitter, but has been unable to pitch or field. Both are hoping to be back to full playing condition for the postseason.
The double-elimination tournament will continue during the first weekend of May, plus final elimination games on May 6 and 7. The district championship game is slated for May 8.
The top two teams will advance to the Region 3-AAA Tournament, beginning May 13 against the top two squads from District 6-AAA.
During Wednesday’s coaches’ meeting in Soddy-Daisy, the All-District 5-AAA Team was selected with a dozen Bradley County players making the prestigious squad.
Walker Valley’s honor players include Barnes, Caleb Longley, Chase Prince, Josh Poole and John Simmons.
Bradley players getting the nod are seniors Jacob Maynard, Caleb Pippenger, Charles Chavis and Nate Mills.
Taylor Thompson, Jake Wyrick and Kimsey Bell are the Raider contingent on the all-district squad.