Young Lookout Valley Yellow Jackets shine

Young Lookout Valley Yellow Jackets shine

April 18th, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Bradley Central head baseball coach Travis Adams talks to Caleb Pippenger.

Photo by Connor Choate/Times Free Press.

There are three upperclassmen playing baseball at Lookout Valley. The rest of Tuesday's starters spent this past summer playing on a 13-14-year-old team.

There are no caravans to away games because so few of the Yellow Jackets are eligible for driver's licenses.

"Youngest team I've ever coached by far," coach Wes Caldwell said. "This may be the youngest team in Tennessee history. I've never done it previously and never heard of anybody else doing it."

The seniors, Levi Wallace and Tony Summerow, and junior Chase Clounch are starters.

Included on the roster are eighth-graders.

"I've started an eighth-grader (on the mound) every Tuesday and I had another one as the first relief pitcher," Caldwell said.

The eighth-graders are Evan Walker, who started at quarterback last fall on the Jackets' football team; Preston Frashier and Austin Delay. Walker and Delay missed some time with injuries but Frashier, who's played third, shortstop and first base, has been in the lineup every game. Delay was hitting in the three hole and playing in the outfield when he wasn't pitching in the preseason.

"This is a program with a lot of tradition, and we started this year with the idea of building from the ground up because of the youthfulness. Every day there's hope and focus on getting better and I think we have the opportunity to improve more than anybody on our schedule," the coach said.

Despite their youthfulness, Caldwell has never been one to cut corners on fundamentals.

"I understand they're going to make mistakes," he said. "What I expect is for them to learn as fast as they can and play hard every day and be a better player every week. Our older guys have been part of winning programs, and they have hung in there and helped us build this team. It shows a lot of character the way they have assumed leadership roles."

Pippenger ties record

The national high school record for getting hit by a pitch in a single game is four,

Set by Guy Ball in Michigan in 2007. Bradley Central's Caleb Pippenger tied the record when he was hit four times in the Bears' 14-5 win over Ooltewah.

Ooltewah pitchers hit a total of nine Bradley hitters and walked another nine, but the NFHS record book doesn't list hit-by-pitch records for teams.

Etter at 815

Headed into Wednesday night's scheduled game against McCallie (which was later postponed because of rain), Baylor's Gene Etter stood 15th nationally among active high school baseball coaches with 815 victories.

Trojans Invitational

Collierville may be the team to beat -- again -- when Soddy-Daisy's Trojans Invitational kicks off later today.

"If they win it this year, I may change the name of the tournament to the Dragons Invitational," Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley joked. "They've won it the last two years."

The 20-team event will be played today through Saturday at Soddy-Daisy, Red Bank, Central, Ooltewah and Bradley Central with the top two teams meeting at 6 p.m. Saturday at Soddy-Daisy for the championship.

Among teams joining Collierville in the out-of-town contingent are Friendship Christian and Greater Gwinnett Christian. GGC finished runner-up to Tullahoma in Hixson's Wildcat Classic. In addition to the host teams, other local teams participating are Cleveland, East Hamilton and McMinn County.

"Weekend tournaments come down to who can hit the most or who has the most pitching depth," Hensley said. "Ooltewah's depth in its pitching staff will play in their favor."

Ooltewah wrapped up the District 5-AAA championship earlier this week.

Bucs-Seahawks challenge

Both are playing today -- Silverdale Baptist hosting Marion County and Boyd-Buchanan playing at Sequatchie County -- but if they win they'll carry 13-game win streaks into their District 5-A showdown Tuesday at Silverdale. The first game of the two-game set will be at 5 p.m. The second game will be at 5 Thursday at Boyd-Buchanan with the district championship on the line.

The situations are similar in Districts 6-AA and 6-A. In 6-AA, unbeatens Central and East Hamilton meet at 7 Monday at Central and at 6 Tuesday at Chattanooga State. In 6-A, it's South Pittsburg and once-beaten Whitwell in 7 p.m. games -- Monday at Whitwell and Tuesday at South Pittsburg.

There also are big games in 7-AA with CCS and Notre Dame and Bledsoe and Signal Mountain playing Monday and Tuesday. Those games will decide the district championship.

Ooltewah has won District 5-AAA but a battle still remains for second-fourth places between Walker Valley, Bradley Central and Cleveland.

Ups and downs

Soddy-Daisy has struggled this year but coaches saw some promise over the weekend when the Trojans bested perennial state power Farragut 6-4. It was just their fifth win of the year for a senior-less team that's starting a handful of sophomores and freshmen.

"It was obviously a big deal to beat those guys," Hensley said. "They're always nationally- or state-ranked. The big deal for us was that we finished the game. A lot of times with young guys they have to learn the hard way."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.