Sequatchie County baseball coach Aaron Simmons was thinking the worst in a preseason practice when one of his outfielders took a fly ball off the top of his head.
Simmons was worried; he wondered even if the Indians would win a game. All the while, though, he was preaching that rewards come in the postseason.
He had one starter returning after two of his better players - brothers Dakota and Hunter Hudson - moved to Pigeon Forge. They were the starting shortstop and right fielder last year and would have been among the Indians' top three pitchers.
"We're better than I thought," the coach said Saturday after his team beat Red Bank 7-1 in Hixson's Wildcat Classic. "At first I thought this was going to be a rebuilding season. We spent a lot of the time [in the preseason] on fundamentals, and there has been a huge difference since the first week."
The Indians are 2-2 after dropping an extra-inning game to East Hamilton later Saturday afternoon.
"We're young - 15 of our 22 players are freshmen or sophomores - but there's hope," Simmons said.
It looked early on as if Red Bank's Hunter Holmes would be unable to throw a pitch for the Lions this year, but he actually pitched over the weekend.
An MRI last week revealed that Holmes had tendinitis rather than a serious injury. He got in three innings on Saturday.
Barton must sit
Gunter Barton, who transferred from Red Bank to Signal Mountain, has been ruled ineligible after a third appeal to the TSSAA. There is a 12-month waiting period between varsity appearances for the two schools.
"He's playing junior varsity for us right now," Signal coach Bumper Reese said, "but if we get out of the district [tournament] he could wind up pitching a region game for us. Of course we have a long road ahead of us to get that far."
Outfielder Tyler Hanks has been dismissed from the team at Central.
Coach Glen Carter said the disciplinary action was for violation of team rules.
The annual Ooltewah Invitational, which will have a handful of traditionally strong teams from the midstate area, is being played with a twist this year. The championship game will be at 5 p.m. Saturday rather than being played on Sunday.
Among the out-of-town teams are Brentwood, Dickson County and Upperman. Jackson Christian represents the western end of the state.
Area teams joining the host Owls are Bradley Central, Central, Cleveland, Polk County, Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy. Games will be played at Bradley and Central as well as Ooltewah.
One of the top performances last week came from University of Tennessee signee Brandon Zajac. The lefty struck out 16 in Walker Valley's District 5-AAA win over Ooltewah on Tuesday. That matched the total from the day before by Ringgold junior (and longtime Clemson commitment) Matthew Crownover against Northwest Whitfield.
In 5-AAA only two teams remain unbeaten after the first week. McMinn County and Soddy-Daisy split their Monday-Tuesday games, as did Walker Valley and Ooltewah. Cleveland swept Rhea County, and Bradley Central played nondistrict games.
Year-to-date statistics should be submitted by Wednesday of each week to www.timesfreepress.com/prepstatsadmin. Coaches can email Ward Gossett for their school verification codes.