Filed by Ward Gossett
Assistant Sports Editor
It took this past weekend for the realization to sink in that Chattanooga baseball must be pretty good.
Baseball in Chattanooga has had a pretty good run the last couple of years. There is a lot of talent in this area, said Red Bank coach Bumper Reese, whose Lions have finished second in two tournaments and third in another.
Those who have graduated are performing well at the next level including Baylor’s Wes Hodges at Georgia Tech, McMinn County’s Adam Ray at Central Florida, Ooltewah’s Ryan Jones at Tennessee and Central’s Ryan Wilkes at Kentucky. Lee University has been winning with such local talent as Central outfielder Andrew Shaver and Soddy-Daisy pitcher B.J. Church and former Red Bank players Clark Jackson and Trey Hicks played in last year’s NAIA world series.
Red Bank’s Jacob Fabry is playing at East Tennessee, and will be joined next year by McCallie’s Tanner Moore and Bart Roark. A majority of Ooltewah’s starting nine has already signed college scholarships including pitcher/outfielder Kyler Burke at Vanderbilt and first baseman/outfielder Blake McDade at MTSU, and Red Bank pitcher Tyler Henry has signed with Kentucky. Kennesaw State has signed two pitchers from the area — Cleveland lefty Kyle Clayton and Ringgold right-hander Kyle Heckathorn.
McCallie and Baylor always are competitive in Division II. Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy have won two local tournament championships. Marion County and Notre Dame are always going to be strong in the AA class and Lookout Valley is a year-in and year-out Class A contender.
Two of the state’s strongest tournaments are held here every year — McCallie’s Scenic City Classic and Soddy-Daisy’s tournament, which this year was sponsored by Honeycutt Sports.
Baylor finished second in the Scenic City, a tournament that featured such state powers as Farragut, Science Hill, Murfreesboro Riverdale and Evangelical Christian from Memphis, then turned around and beat Knox Central for the Rhea County championship.
The Soddy-Daisy tournament, which the host Trojans won for the first time, included McCallie, Mt. Juliet, Wilson Central and Knox Halls. Three of the tournament’s four semifinalists — Soddy-Daisy, Ooltewah and Red Bank — were from District 6-AAA, and the fourth was Cleveland from District 5-AAA.
All three of our district teams have 20-win seasons already, Reese said. We’re balanced. Central is a very dangerous team, too. They have beaten Baylor and Ooltewah. We have beat each other up in our district, which I think is very balanced, but 5-AAA is the same way. Bradley (Central) was sitting there 5-1 two weeks ago and got swept by Cumberland County.
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