By Russell Vannozzi for The Robertson County Connection
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted baseball as much as any sport, and the fallout is just beginning.
High school and college seasons were canceled shortly after they started. MLB Spring Training was stopped and has yet to resume as owners and players squabble over money.
Now, college baseball programs are facing a roster crunch of epic proportions thanks to a shortened MLB Draft and the logjam created by players being granted an extra year of eligibility.
One group has been especially affected: unsigned 2020 high school seniors.
Many were planning to use the spring baseball season as a final audition and have been left in the cold. Recent White House Heritage graduate Logan Gann is one of them.https://caf33354c1edea54ed4b7e8d9aaf8351.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“I talked to a couple (college) coaches who said they would come to some games, but that didn’t happen,” said Gann, who hit .462 in 2019 and hopes to walk on at Tennessee Tech. “We didn’t have any games.”
The anatomy of the problem
Put simply: there is an oversupply of baseball players with college eligibility.
In a normal year the MLB Draft would have lasted 40 rounds (approx. 1,200 selections) and graduating college seniors would have exhausted their eligibility.
This year the draft was shortened to just five rounds (160 selections) as MLB owners try to cut expenses in the wake of canceled games and lost revenue. That means hundreds of high school and college players who could have gone pro are now stuck in the college ranks.
Plus, the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA each granted all spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility because college seasons were cut short.
In turn, a roster frenzy was created. Nearly 1,000 players have entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to D1Baseball.com.
“It’s a snowball effect,” said Colton Provey, director of scouting for Prep Baseball Report Tennessee. “There’s not a whole lot of winners.”
The NCAA has since eliminated its 35-man roster limit for the 2020-21 school year, and the NAIA and NJCAA don’t have as strict of roster limits (some also have junior varsity teams).
“Some colleges aren’t sure where their own players are going,” White House Heritage coach Chris Logsdon said. “I think everybody is kind of looking at each other and asking, ‘What are we going to do?’”
With more seniors returning to school and plenty of proven transfers for college coaches to choose from, the market for unsigned high school seniors has dried up.https://caf33354c1edea54ed4b7e8d9aaf8351.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“It’s sad for a lot of reasons,” Old Hickory Baseball Club coach Robbie Sinks said. “I feel the worst for high school and college seniors. But college seniors got a little reprieve – they can come back. High school seniors didn’t get a reprieve.”
Even those who have signed are entering different circumstances than they were expecting. Incoming players will compete with more returnees for limited spots in the lineup – the trickle-down effect of an added year of eligibility.
“If a kid has signed, they are going into a deep, deep pond,” Sinks said. “Normally it would just be a pond. It’s a different ballgame now.”
Added Provey: “It makes it tough on those high school senior guys. Unintentionally, they’re competing with guys that may be three or four years older, which is tough sledding.”
College options limited
Former Hendersonville pitcher Caid Sanders is in a similar position as Gann. Though he was hoping to earn a baseball scholarship at a smaller school, Sanders has an academic scholarship at Alabama and will attempt to join the Crimson Tide as a walk-on while studying marine biology.
“If I don’t make the team, I will still probably end up going to school there and just play club baseball,” he said. “But right now, goal No. 1 is making their team.”
Not everyone is fortunate to have a backup plan at a university.
Old Hickory Baseball Club has two unsigned grads – Charlie Albamont (Father Ryan) and Joey Soporowski (White House) – who have yet to hear from any colleges. With no scholarship opportunities, both are considering trying out for junior college programs.
“The amount of scholarships they can give out, especially this late, is really small,” Soporowski said. “That’s one of the hardest things.”
Throwbacks Baseball Club has five unsigned seniors including Hayes Biemesderfer (Northwest), Jerrett Edmondson (Sycamore), Case Fedun (Overton), Sam Galbraith (homeschool) and Grant Pinson (MBA). Three of them have college offers or interest.
Throwbacks coach Michael Brown feels the pain of late signees and is doing everything he can to get his players noticed. Brown inked with Trevecca in May 2014 after completing his high school career at Sycamore.
“I understand the pressure and the stress,” he said. “My job is to alleviate as much of that stress as possible.”
Dreams still alive
Sanders and his former Hendersonville teammates have a sour taste in their mouths. They wanted to finish their playing careers on their own terms.
At least one classmate who wasn’t planning to play college baseball – Hendersonville infielder Andruw Stratton – is now trying to walk on at Chattanooga State Community College.
“It’s really hard to end your baseball career like we did,” Sanders said. “If you can (play), everybody wants to keep playing.”
Others have found motivation in the lack of college interest. Soporowski, a left-handed pitcher, has increased his velocity from 75 to 84 mph over the last year and continues to add strength in the weight room.
“It just makes me want to work harder,” he said.
The summer baseball season has also taken on an increased importance. It’s one final chance for 2020 grads to prove themselves to college coaches.
“Usually summer baseball is pretty laid back,” Brown said. “But since these kids didn’t have a senior season of school ball, it’s more important. It’s crunch time now for some of these kids.”
The college dream won’t necessarily be over for players who don’t earn offers by the end of the summer.
BC Athletics, based in Knoxville and owned by former MLB player Brett Carroll, recently launched a post-grad baseball program that allows unsigned 2020 players to improve their skills, play against college teams and maintain their eligibility.
“It’s not the end of the road if they don’t get an offer,” Brown said. “They can go to a post-grad program and get bigger, stronger and faster and still have a chance.”
However, each unsigned player will eventually have to face reality. Every baseball career ends one day.
Thanks to the pandemic, that day could come sooner than expected for some.
“I’m still hoping to play,” said Albamont, the utility player from Father Ryan. “If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
“But I’m still trying.”
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
SMYRNA — White House senior Austin Vickers finished his career on Wednesday in the TSSAA Boys State Tournament at Smyrna Bowling Center, finishing 7th overall in the field of 48 semifinal competitors.
The top six advance to the finals in a ladder match format, and Vickers finished one pin short of the finals. With two early games below 200, Vickers had a tough hole to climb and nearly did the impossible, bowling a 215 and 241 to finish. The cut-off line was 793 pin fall total, and Vickers had a 792.
His four games were 194-142-215-241 for an average of 198.0. The state finals cut off line was 198.3.
Vickers improved on his overall ranking coming into the tournament as the 17th seed based on average.
The six finalists were Jacob Brown of Walker Valley (218.3), Devean Littlejohn of Hardin Valley (217.8), Caleb Marshall of Sevier County (209.8), Drew Whalen of Franklin (202.5), Colton Moore of Lawrence County (201.8) and Andy Romer of Green Hill (198.3).
Congratulations to Austin Vickers on a great season and a great career! #bdp
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
SMYRNA — White House senior Sean Sabo finished his career on Wednesday in the TSSAA Boys State Tournament at Smyrna Bowling Center, finishing 42nd overall in the field of 48 semifinal competitors.
The top six advance to the finals in a ladder match format.
Sabo bowled four games in the boys individual tournament, completing his round with a consistent effort of 156-161-157-124 for a total pin count of 598 and average of 149.5.
The finish by Sabo was also consistent with his ranking coming into the tournament, as the senior bowler was the 41st overall seed by total average.
Congratulations to Sean Sabo on a great season and a great career! #bdp
If the White House Lady Devils are going to make a run at a first-ever state bowling championship on Thursday, then the opening match is one for the ages.
White House (12-1) will start the TSSAA State Team Championship for girls bowling on Thursday in a single-elimination match against seven-time defending state champion Hardin County (17-0). Hardin County has won every state title since 2014, and nine of the 10 titles in the past decade, excluding an upset by Alvin C. York Institute in 2013.
Hardin County has 17 girls state championships overall. The match begins Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
The winner of the first match will play either Stewarts Creek (7-2) or William Blount (6-2) in the second round. On the opposite side of the bracket, undefeated Franklin (19-0) takes on unbeaten Bartlett (9-0), and Sevier County (20-5) matches up against Tullahoma (3-1).
Three times, White House has been the state runner-up, losing to Hardin County in the championship in 2015 (record 23-3), 2016 (33-2) and 2017 (18-3).
White House is also seeking its first-ever individual state championship in girls bowling and five bowlers will have a shot starting Wednesday afternoon. Defending state runner-up and top overall seed Kyleigh Husted is joined by 7th-seed Miranda Cain, 18th-seed Savannah Blair, 21st-seed Ella Husted, and 27th-seed Jaycee Whitaker.
Fans can stay tuned to live scoring of the TSSAA Bowling Championships at www.tssaasports.com
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
HENDERSONVILLE – The White House Lady Devils made quick work of the return to the bowling alley after the holidays, and with three dominating matches the team is headed to the TSSAA State Tournament.
Cruising through the region semifinals and finals over Wilson Central and White County, White House powered past Brentwood 25-2 Saturday morning in the sectional round, earning a return trip to the state tournament. The Lady Devils will bowl individuals Wednesday and 1:30 and 4 p.m. and then the team competition is Thursday, January 21, with the quarterfinals at 8:30 a.m.
The semifinals are Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and the girls championships are Friday at 8:30 a.m.
To say that White House was dominant Saturday morning in the sectional was an understatement. The team lost just two individual matches the whole event, and crushed the total pin count, 3,272 to 2,107.
Senior Kyleigh Husted was also 3-0, rolling a 253 in her third match and ending the day with a 661 series. Senior Miranda Cain bowled a 647 series and went 3-0, rolling a 237 in the second game of the day for her high score.
Jaycee Whitaker put the highest total on the board for the match with a 258 in her second game, and also bowled a 188 in the first game to go 2-0.
Ella Husted was 2-0 with a 168 and 178; Allison Finn was 2-0 with a 177 and 140; Lorelei Caruthers was 2-0 with a 135 and 113, Savannah Blair was 2-1 overall and posted a 204 in her second game of the day and finished with a 508 series. Lily Frakes bowled a 98 in her only game of the day.
White House was 7-1 in the opening round of games, swept the second set 8-0 and then finished 7-1 in the third games, and received the bonus points for total pins.
Entering the state tournament, White House has the top-ranked individual bowler with Kyleigh Husted at a 213.14 average. Miranda Cain is seventh at 197.58, Savannah Blair is 18th at 182.34, Ella Husted is 21st at 180.41, and Jaycee Whitaker is 27th at 174.00.
Five individuals qualified for the state round from White House. See the full list here.
The team round and bracket for the state tournament has not yet been finalized.
White House swept the Bobcats this week with a 76-63 win at home Friday night over Greenbrier.
White House improved to 3-2 in District 9-AA and hosts Cheatham County on Tuesday.
The Greenbrier girls overcame a 14-point halftime deficit Friday night at White House and used an 18-0 run in the third quarter to come back and defeat White House, 53-50 in overtime.
After White House hit a three-pointer in the overtime session to take a 49-48 lead with three minutes to play, Greenbrier scored five straight and took control to hold on for the win.
White House fell to 7-7 (1-3) in District 9-AA and hosts Cheatham County on Tuesday.
The White House Heritage Patriots controlled the game from start to finish Thursday night at White House, winning 74-60 in a make up boys basketball game.
White House will play Greenbrier at home Friday at 7:30 p.m.
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
WHITE HOUSE – After capturing the lead by one point just before the half, White House allowed Springfield to hit a basket in the final seconds to take a 19-18 halftime lead.
But a 15-0 run coming out of the gate in the third quarter helped the Lady Devils roll to a 53-34 victory.
White House improved to 7-6 overall and will return to District 9-AA play Friday night against Greenbrier. The Lady Bobcats defeated White House 62-40 earlier this week in Robertson County.
Tip time Friday is 6 p.m. and there will not be a live broadcast available.
The White House Lady Devils dominated the region bowling semifinals and finals on Thursday to claim the 2020-21 Region Championship, and advance to the sectional round, which is one short of a state tournament.
White House will play a home sectional match at Strike and Spare Family Fun Center at 9 a.m. This will be the match to determine a state berth, and the last time fans will be allowed to watch the event in person. The TSSAA ruled that fans are not allowed at the state tournament.
White House opened the day with a 24.5 to 2.5 win over Wilson Central, and then defeated White County 22 to 5.
Congrats to the Lady Devils!
Picture by Erin Husted
White House junior quarterback/tailback Ranen Blackburn was named to the 615 Preps All-Area second team for the medium class divisions in 2020.
See the full article below.
By Chris Brooks for 615Preps
Continuing our inaugural 615 Preps All-Area Teams for the 2020 season, the second group of honorees comes from the Medium Class schools, made up of players from teams in Class 3A, Class 4A and Division II-Class AA.
The teams were comprised of players who were All-State selections, either by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association or the Tennessee Football Coaches Association. Players who made both teams became automatic First Team selections. All other players must have been first-team All-Region selections to qualify. Coach nominations were also considered for placement.
In addition, superlatives for each team were chosen based on full-season performance (both regular season and postseason).
SEE ALSO: 2020 615 Preps Small Class All-Area Team
Thanks to all the coaches who submitted players for the team, and congratulations to all the players selected this year. As a reminder, only players from the schools in our coverage area were eligible.
Why chosen: Broome made a significant impact on offense and special teams in 2020, compiling 1,807 all-purpose yards (1,076 rushing, 465 receiving, 266 return yards) and 30 touchdowns to help lead the Mustangs to a runner-up finish in Division II-AA. He was also selected as a Mr. Football semifinalist for his efforts.
Why chosen: Owens earned a Mr. Football finalist nomination despite not getting on the field until Week 6 after Metro Schools delayed the start of their teams’ seasons. No matter. Owens completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 1,840 yards and 28 touchdowns with only three interceptions in nine games as the Firebirds went undefeated until they fell at Milan in the Class 3A semifinals.
Why chosen: Patterson had a big impact in the backfield — his own and opposing offenses — but it was on the defensive side where he helped guide the Division II-AA champion Lions with 72 tackles (19 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks.
Why chosen: In addition to being a big-play threat on offense — Jones had 1,394 yards of total offense and 23 touchdowns — he flipped the field with regularity for the Cougars. Jones averaged 34.4 yards per kickoff return with three touchdowns, and picked up 42 yards per punt return with two more scores.
Why chosen: Turner’s first year at the helm of the Goodpasture program turned out to be a successful one, leading the Cougars to their first winning season since 2016 and their first state semifinal game since 2010.